Fifty-five years after it was first built, Selkirk College’s Silver King campus is finally moving into the future.
Students, instructors and politicians cut the ribbon on Silver King’s new student centre Monday in Nelson, marking the completion of a $23.2-million revitalization project to the site of Selkirk’s trades programs.
Selkirk College president Angus Graeme said it is a much-needed renovation to the campus, which was built in 1964 as the B.C. Vocational School and later merged with Selkirk in 1975.
“We would upgrade things as we went and change over labs and classrooms, but this is the first really significant investment in this campus,” said Graeme.
“What it means is if a student in youth in trades in high school or someone who’s wanting to retrain or a mature learner comes onto this campus now and looks around, they say, ‘OK, so this would be a great place to study.’ Before it was a little bit industrial.”
Industrial is a polite way of describing a campus in need of a new look.
The nearly three-year project adds a modern student centre that features a large cafeteria, library, offices, study rooms and an Indigenous gathering space for the nearly 500 students enrolled in trades programs at Silver King.
Previously, lunch hours at the campus required a trip to what was known by students and staff as The Bunker, a cafeteria in the basement of one of the buildings.
“It was just not conducive to getting students to sit down, relax, talk about what they’re studying, exchange ideals between the trades areas they are focusing on,” said Graeme before gesturing around the new student building. “This is just a much more open, magical space where you can come, sit and have your lunch and make friends talk about what you learned.”
The campus also now features a new carpentry building with a covered outdoor work area, two renovated trades buildings and equipment updates.
The renovation was funded $13.63 million from the provincial government, $5.84 million from the federal government, $2 million from Selkirk College and the remaining $1.7 million from industry partners and donations.
B.C. Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark was in Nelson for the opening of the new campus. She said the province’s 2018 B.C. Labour Market Outlook projects to 71,000 job opportunities in trades in the next 10 years.
“Our economy, our communities, everything in our province relies on the trades,” said Mark. “You can’t have the lights on without electricians, you can’t have the framing of a building without carpenters. It’s absolutely essential that we need people in the trades and we need to do more around awareness so that people understand the opportunities.”
Graeme said the next step for Selkirk is to expand student housing to accommodate for the new facility in a city with a zero per cent vacancy rate.
In March, the college pitched the provincial government on a $25-million housing project that would build a 40-bed unit at the Silver King campus and a 110-bed unit at Castlegar’s campus.
“We now have pretty solid multi-year data that students are choosing to come here, but having to defer because they can’t find a place. That’s not a good place for us to be,” said Graeme.
“We do have those proposals in front of government right now and they’ve seen them and now we’re in the hopper along with the other 24 public post-secondaries in the province.”