With construction on the $18.9 million Selkirk College Silver King Campus refresh project starting to move into full swing, Metal Fabricator Foundation Program student Jennifer Perepelkin has walked into an opportunity to be part of the exciting transformation.
Perepelkin is one of two Selkirk College trades students hired by general contractor Yellowridge Construction to work part-time on the project that is modernizing the aging shops and adding a new student commons building at the campus located in Nelson’s Rosemont neighbourhood.
“It’s a good introduction to many trades and great to be able to work on a project of this size,” says the 20-year-old Krestova resident.
There are currently 35 people working on the project that broke ground in October, but by September that number is expected to be more than 100. The large majority of the workers by that time will be sub-trades, but as the work progresses over the summer the contractor needed a hand with general labour and found the help close by.
“Jennifer actually approached us which is what we like because she showed that get-up-and-go,” says Yellowridge project manager Paul Bradford. “She is hard working and thinks ahead, so even though she doesn’t have a lot of experience she makes up for it with a good attitude.”
The Silver King Campus first opened in 1964 as the BC Vocational School and merged with Selkirk College in 1975. More than a half-century old, the campus was long overdue for the overhaul that was made possible through a $10.4 million investment by the Government of British Columbia and a $5.84 million infusion by the Government of Canada.
Due to the complexity of keeping regular trades programs running while the shop spaces are transformed, the project is proceeding at a calculated pace.
“It adds challenges because there is not a lot of flexibility when there are regular classes going on,” says Bradford. “Selkirk College has been brilliant to work with in terms of accommodating us to ensure we get to the areas needed because that requires the shutdown of certain shops. It takes coordination and cooperation to ensure it goes smoothly for the entire job.”
With work taking place over the last few months, the welding shop will be the first to be complete in the coming weeks in the south trades area of the campus and then other shops will follow. The student commons portion of the project—which will include a new cafeteria, multi-purpose open study area, student services offices and an Aboriginal gathering place—will begin construction in July.
Back in the Metal Fabricator Foundation Program shop, Perepelkin and her classmates are busy working away in an old shop area. Heading into the final weeks of the six-month foundation program, Perepelkin is thrilled to be moonlighting with Yellowridge. She will continue to work through the summer and in September begins the Welding Foundation Program where she plans to start earning her Red Seal certification.
“I took this program because I thought it would be helpful while I waited to enter the welding program and I actually knew very little about metal fabrication,” Perepelkin says. “But it’s been very interesting and enjoyable. With the small class size, we are able to get a lot of focused instruction which has been very helpful.”
Though there is no guarantee more Selkirk College students will get an opportunity to work on the project in the coming months, School of Industry & Trades chair Rob Schwarzer hopes more will show the initiative to get an opportunity.
“Trades training at Selkirk College is more than an education, it’s a career,” says the veteran educator who has been integral in making sure programs run properly during the construction. “To see students successfully gain employment like this while still attending school is very positive and a real bonus.”
The Silver King Campus renewal project is slated for completion in August, 2018.
The next intake for the Metal Fabricator Foundation Program is February, 2018. Find out more about trades programs at Selkirk College at: www.selkirk.ca/school/industry-and-trades-training.