Navigate Up
Sign In

Selkirk College and FortisBC Help Build Rural Economy

Share
by Bob Hall, Selkirk College
October 14, 2016

Education



Selkirk College’s rural advantage helps learners garner the education required to grow the economy in the region and FortisBC is one of the recipients of decades of alumni who have made a difference. One of British Columbia’s vital utility companies, FortisBC employs more than 70 Selkirk College graduates at its Trail operation. Working in a variety of departments, these alumni are key to ensuring the proper supply of electricity and natural gas.

“FortisBC employees who have graduated from Selkirk College are very community-focused, adaptable and hard working,” says Jody Drope, Vice President of Human Resources & Environment/Health & Safety with FortisBC. “In times of emergency or high stress, these employees cherish the environment in which they work, know the people whose power they are trying to restore and do their best to exceed expectations.”

Celebrating its 50th year of providing inspiring lifelong learning for residents of the West Kootenay and Boundary region and beyond, Selkirk College has been working in harmony with FortisBC for decades. Like many other major employers in the region, FortisBC looks to Selkirk College to provide the training and knowledge needed to stay on the leading edge.

“As the energy and utility industry continues to change and grow with new technologies and customer expectations, it is valuable to have a post-secondary institution where well-rounded, skilled and eager students are entering the workforce, specifically in an area where we have infrastructure and customers,” says Drope.

“Being able to offer relevant education and training that can be transitioned to a permanent career in the area where someone has spent most of their life or has started a family is valuable. Our customers have a better experience when talking with employees who also live in and understand their community.”

Launchpad to a Rewarding Career

Pat Smith is a Senior Financial Analyst with FortisBC and a Selkirk College alumnus who was part of the Charter Student class that took their first post-secondary steps back in September, 1966. Growing up in Nelson, Smith enrolled in the School of University Arts & Sciences and used Selkirk College as a post-secondary jumping off point.

“I chose Selkirk because it was the perfect transition from high school to college life,” says Smith. “It was also less expensive than going straight to the University of British Columbia (UBC). I wouldn't have been able to earn enough money to go to Vancouver right after high school, so it was a great option. Plus, it was a big culture shock going from growing up in Nelson to big city Vancouver.”

After graduating from UBC, Smith went to work for Canadian Pacific Airlines and in 1975 got a job with West Kootenay Power (now FortisBC). With an impressive career that spans more than 40 years, Smith looks back at his post-secondary start with fondness.

“When I attended, Selkirk College was small with small class sizes and that allowed teachers to give students a lot of attention,” says Smith, whose daughter also received her post-secondary start at Selkirk College. “We weren't one of 200 students in a classroom with no support, but at the same time we weren't treated like summer students. I learned a lot of self-discipline.”

A Brighter Future Together

As Selkirk College enters its next 50 years with a future full of promise, the bond forged with FortisBC over the first five decades will continue. As rural partners in prosperity, both will look to each other for continued success.

FortisBC provides assistance on an ongoing basis for many projects at the college, most recently a $10,000 grant to support community energy planning, energy efficient design and organizational policies that support environmental sustainability use. The project employs a former School of Environment & Geomatics student and helps focus priorities into the future.

“It’s important that FortisBC identifies and works with post-secondary institutions that produce graduates with the skills needed to meet our customers' evolving energy needs,” says Drope. “Through working together with the college, we can offer career opportunities where employees can continue to develop these skills.”

You can find out more about Selkirk College at selkirk.ca.

Contributed by:
Bob Hall, Community Liaison & Communications Coordinator
Selkirk College, West Kootenay & Boundary Region