AMEC Support for Selkirk College Brings Special Touch

AMEC Support for Selkirk College Brings Special Touch

Mar 11 2014
When an injury forced Eric MacFarlane to change careers back in the mid-1980s he turned to Selkirk College for the right path. Twenty-five years later, the Business Administration Program alumnus continues to keep the college close to his heart.

Eric MacFarlane understands how Selkirk College can change lives because he’s reminded every day he goes to work at AMEC’s West Kootenay office in downtown Trail.

When MacFarlane was in his mid-20s, life was going along according to plan. A good job as an auto mechanic, a young family and a promising future in the West Kootenay. Then an injury made the daily rigours of shop life too difficult and he was faced with the daunting prospect of changing careers.

Determined to make the best of a challenging situation, MacFarlane enrolled at Selkirk College. First he completed academic upgrading at Nelson’s Silver King Campus and then it was off to the Business Administration Program on the Castlegar Campus.

AMEC Trail Operations Manager Eric MacFarlane presents Selkirk College Director of Human Resources and Community Relations Gary Leier with a cheque for $1,000. The annual donation from the AMEC goes towards an endowment that provides a yearly scholarship to a Selkirk College science student.

Today MacFarlane is the operations manager at Trail’s AMEC office and life has never been better.

“It turned out very well for me,” MacFarlane says. “You get out what you put in, but it made a big difference in my life. I sometimes think of that accident that happened to me as almost a blessing. Even though I have some long term injuries as a result of it, it still really changed my life in terms of my working career.”

Part of a Worldwide Team

AMEC is one of the world’s leading engineering, project management and consultancy companies. In total the company employs more than 29,000 people in 40 countries that range from scientists and environmental consultants to engineers and project managers.

The Trail operation is one of 190 offices worldwide. The local office currently employs 108 people who work on a variety of projects. Though Trail’s Teck Operations is the primary customer, MacFarlane oversees employees working on projects in Saskatchewan, the United States, Italy and South America. All of those employees are based in the West Kootenay and bring solid wages to the local economy.

“Even people in Trail don’t know who we are,” MacFarlane laughs when asked about the somewhat quiet nature of an important regional employer.

Selkirk Provides Solid Start

MacFarlane’s time at Selkirk College was well spent. He chose Business Administration because it provided a broad spectrum of opportunities after graduation. Midway through his first year, he chose to focus on accounting as his specialty.

By the end of the two years MacFarlane was a star student and was chosen as the valedictorian for the Selkirk College Class of 1989.

“I really enjoyed my time at Selkirk, it exceeded my expectations,” he says with a smile.

Immediately after graduating, MacFarlane was hired by Interfor and moved his young family to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. As the accountant for the Cleagh Creek logging operation near Port Hardy, MacFarlane’s commute to work included a 30 minute bus ride and 10 minute boat ride to get to the office.

“I really enjoyed my time in Port Hardy, but after 10 months an accounting opening came available in Vancouver so we jumped at it,” says MacFarlane.

After two years in Vancouver, MacFarlane longed for Kootenay life and when a job opened up at Celgar in Castlegar he brought his family home. In total he worked at Celgar for eight years as a cost accountant, working with the company during a very challenging period in the 1990s.

Settling in with AMEC

MacFarlane was hired on at AMEC in 2000 as the finance and business manager. Early in his first year, an opportunity came up that pointed MacFarlane to his alma mater.

“When I first started we were looking for places to donate and give back to the community where it would have a lasting effect,” says MacFarlane. “I thought about Selkirk College right away and that was 14 years ago.”

Since that time, AMEC has contributed $1,000 a year towards the AMEC Americas Limited Endowment which provides a scholarship to a student enrolled in Associate Science or the Applied Science Engineering Program with a high GPA. AMEC also supports other Selkirk College initiatives like contributing to the Support-A-Saint program.

“This kind of support is vital to Selkirk College and its students,” says Gary Leier, Selkirk’s Director of Human Resources and Community Relations. “To have partners like AMEC in our communities really makes a difference. And having an outstanding alumni like Eric continue to spearhead support years after graduation makes what we do here mean that much more.”

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