Plant Operator Program Provides Industry Options

Selkirk College Offering Third Intake for Silver King-Based Program


Selkirk College is opening doors to multi-industry opportunities by offering an additional intake for the popular Plant Operator Program.

Based out of Nelson’s Silver King Campus, the 24-week Plant Operator Program prepares students for entry level positions in a multitude of areas like oil & gas, refineries, pulp mills, forestry, mining, health care, educational facilities, manufacturing and recreation. With a six-week practicum built into the program, students gain knowledge and develop the skills required to operate, monitor and troubleshoot modern industrial plants.

Plant Operator Program

Plant Operator Program Instructor Bruce McMaster stands beside the replica plant used for training at Nelson’s Silver King Campus which is the only one of its kind in Western Canada. The next intake for the 24-week program is now open for registration and classes begin on August 4.

“The complex equipment that make things work together as one is the exciting part about this program,” says Selkirk College Plant Operator Program Instructor Bruce McMaster. “You need a strong mechanical aptitude to be able to operate these pieces of equipment and problem solving is a big part of being a plant operator. It’s a field that has endless opportunities for those with the training we provide.”

Training Facility Provides Unique Advantage

McMaster has been teaching at the Silver King Campus for more than a decade. A Selkirk College alumnus, he is a journeyperson electrician, fourth class power engineer and HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) technician who spent a decade installing and programming HVAC automation equipment in schools, hospitals and government office buildings around the region. McMaster arrived at Selkirk College to teach the Process Operator Program in 2004 and has held several instructor positions in the trades over the last 10 years.

Selkirk College has the only replica plant of its kind in Western Canada. Built by Teck Cominco in the 1980s, it is modeled after a sand batching plant and allows students to get hands-on training right on campus. Over the years the replica plant has been used by Millwright/Machinist Program and Electrical Program students, but five years ago McMaster created the Plant Operator Program which has morphed the unit into modern training equipment.

“It’s unique because it has real-life, hands-on mechanical equipment,” says McMaster. “We are very fortunate to have this plant on campus and over the years we have worked hard to keep it at an industry standard.”

Graduates of the Plant Operator Program at Selkirk College earn a certificate of completion and typically find employment in manufacturing plants, production plants, processing plants, gas plants, oil fields, smelters, mines, mills, hospitals, refineries and recreational complexes. The knowledge and skills gained in the program can also act as a springboard to higher level positions.

“To get to know what is going on in the background is what’s exciting,” says McMaster. “The fact that things are working without breaking down, the responsibility of operating a plant is a challenge and one that can provide great satisfaction.”

Great Partnerships with Regional Industry

The Plant Operator Program has two intakes each year—one in October and one in March—that suit the hiring cycles of Teck Resources in Trail and Zellstoff Celgar in Castlegar. The provincial government has bolstered funding in areas of trades that are anticipated to be in-demand over the coming years. Plant operators are considered one of those areas, so a third intake has been added and starts this August. This intake will focus more on hospitals, school districts, municipalities, sawmills, recreational facilities and other large plant operations. In this round there will be potential practicums across the Kootenay.

“Local industry involvement makes the program what it is,” says McMaster. “Without them and their plants it would be impossible to connect so many learning objectives with the real world. In turn, we have the opportunity to help fill positions that are required in their operations.”

During the 18 weeks of instructional time, students travel to 10 plant operations of various sizes throughout the West Kootenay including Nelson Hydro, Teck, Zellstoff Celgar, Columbia Brewery, Selkirk College, Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (Trail) and the Nelson & District Community Complex. The goal is by the end of the tours, students will have a detailed record of the plants they have visited and a broad awareness of the operator duties and tasks at the various plants in our area.

Classes for the next Plant Operator Program start on August 4. For more information on the program or registration call 250.354.3221.


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