Whether as a student, instructor, mentor to students, or recruiter of graduates, Kalpna Solanki has been connected with BCIT throughout her impressive environmental and entrepreneurial career.
When she accepted the role of CEO of the Environmental Operators Certification Program in 2016, Kalpna Solanki realized her career had come full circle.
It was a return to her environmental roots — firmly planted 30 years ago with the offer of a place in BCIT’s diploma program in Environmental Health, Environmental Science and Public Health.
Her decision to ignore the pull of an MBA (temporarily at least; she earned her MBA 10 years later), and instead develop her interest in environmental issues, turned out to be a good one. It sparked a passion for public health and protecting the environment that still burns brightly today.
“From electricians to radiographers to environmental health officers, every aspect of our lives is touched by BCIT grads.”
Solanki received two offers immediately after graduation, accepting a position with the City of Burnaby’s environmental health department. “The employers came to BCIT,” she recalls. “Environmental health grads were in pretty high demand.”
Over the next decade or so, Solanki worked in a variety of roles for the City, as well as finding time to return to BCIT in 2001 for her first of two stints as an instructor, teaching research methods (and later environmental health risk assessment).
“One of the key things about my BCIT experience is that, 30 years later, I’m still in touch with some of the people I went to school with,” says Solanki, who puts this down to the program’s cohort model. “The network and friendships I gained are quite something.”
Solanki, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, returned to BCIT again in 2004 — this time to take a three-month entrepreneurial program. That kick-started the next phase of her career. She ended up founding and selling two businesses, including FX-Foods Inc., which made and sold award-winning food products made from organic and other healthy ingredients.
Foundation for success
Despite a resume that also boasts a BSc in Biological Sciences and an MBA, Solanki credits the practical training she got at BCIT for giving her career a clear direction and providing a foundation for her future success.
“BCIT gets you job-ready,” she says. “It’s been said many, many times because it’s true. From electricians to radiographers to environmental health officers, every aspect of our lives is touched by BCIT grads.”
Solanki’s relationship with BCIT continues. She mentors an entrepreneur through the BCIT Student Association and, in her current role, is looking into starting a new training school for the BC waste and wastewater industry at the school, which already has some courses for operators.
“There are retirements coming up in water and wastewater plants, and the only two full-time training schools are in Kamloops and Kelowna,” she explains. “We are partnering with Metro Vancouver, where all the jobs are, to investigate the potential of an operator training school at BCIT.”
Solanki wants BCIT to be there for future students, and industry, just like it has always been there for her:
“When I needed to figure out a career, BCIT was there. When I was looking at starting up my own business, BCIT was there. When I needed a job, BCIT was there.”
“BCIT is an even bigger and better institution than when I attended. Its reputation is even stronger, more widely known, and more admired.”
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BCIT Aumna, Broadcast & Media Communications ‘87
BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award ‘06
BCIT Honorary Doctor of Technology ‘17
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