Selkirk College Helps Build Careers In Metal Fabrication

Selkirk College Helps Build Careers in Metal Fabrication

Jan 12 2016
The Selkirk College Metal Fabricator Program offers two levels of training--Foundation and Apprenticeship. For those interested in the trades where you work in an environment that is both challenging and ever-changing, the time has never been better to explore the opportunities at Nelson's Silver King Campus.

Tyler Hwalstad knew from a young age that his future was in the trades, but once he discovered the challenge of working with metal he was hooked.

Having completed the Metal Fabricator Foundation Program at Selkirk College, Hwalstad is now working his way through a metal fabrication apprenticeship at Rossland’s Columbia Steel Fabricating & Welding. With an opportunity to build on his training in the community he grew up in, the 21-year-old is excited about a future in his chosen trade. 

A graduate of the Selkirk College Metal Fabricator Foundation Program, Rossland’s Tyler Hwalstad is working on his apprenticeship at Columbia Steel Fabricating & Welding where the local company works with large industrial clients like Teck and Zelstoff Celgar. Hwalstad will be returning to Nelson’s Silver King Campus this spring where he will take the Metal Fabricator Apprenticeship Program and come one step closer to achieving his journeyperson certification.

“One of the great parts about being a fabricator is that it’s always changing and it’s always different,” says Hwalstad. “You get different jobs and different drawings, then you have to build it. Some of it is repetitive like drilling holes, but you don’t do the same thing every day.”

Hwalstad attended Trail’s J.L Crowe Secondary where he started to dabble in the trades through courses offered at his high school. After graduation, he enrolled in Selkirk College’s 24-week Plant Operator Program which is based out of Nelson’s Silver King Campus. In a shop area with the Millwright/Machinist Program, Welding Program and Metal Fabrication Program, Hwalstad had a chance to take a closer look at other pathways.

After completing the Plant Operator Program, Hwalstad spent some time working in the industry before deciding to switch gears. Last year, he returned to the Silver King Campus to take both the Welding Foundation Program and the Metal Fabricator Foundation Program.

“What attracted me was making something out of nothing,” he says. “You have this pile of steel and you have to make something out of it.”

A Trade with a Bright Future

Metal fabricators build, assemble and repair products made of steel. The application of the trade is seen in a wide variety of manufacturing and construction industries. Metal fabricators can work for fabrication and welding shops in the manufacturing of structural steel, boilers, heavy machinery and transportation equipment.

The work of a metal fabricator is often intricate and requires an individual who pays attention to precision. It’s a Red Seal designated trade under the Industry Training Authority (ITA) which allows individuals to travel and work all across Canada.

“This is a trade that has great potential for the future,” says Selkirk College’s Rob Schwarzer, Chair of the School of Industry & Trades. “It’s applicable to so many different industries and the work is extremely rewarding.”

Before arriving to Selkirk College to teach at the Silver King Campus, Schwarzer spent 18 years in the metal trades. He is part of a team of trades’ instructors who bring vital knowledge and training to the next generation.

“The teachers at Selkirk College are awesome, they made the course interesting,” says Hwalstad, who was taught by both Schwarzer and Welding Program Instructor Colin Makeiv. “It’s also very apparent that the instructors at Selkirk College care about you and you get to establish a real connection.”

Selkirk College Provides Two Levels of Training

The Metal Fabricator Foundation Program is currently accepting applications for a February 1 intake. The 23-week program prepares learners for entry level positions. Students engage in a variety of classroom and shop activities where they learn theoretical principles of the trade in the classroom and then apply their knowledge in the Silver King Campus shop where they master the skills employed in the fabrication of steel structures, vessels, tanks and equipment.

Tyler Hwalstad works on a catwalk project for Zeltstoff Celgar at the Columbia Steel Fabricating & Welding shop in Rossland. The Selkirk College grad is working on his hours that will be applied towards his Red Seal certification which he hopes to gain in the next couple years.

With demand for more training based in the West Kootenay-Boundary, Selkirk College has added the Metal Fabricator Apprenticeship Program which enables those working in the industry to get the required technical training. The five-week program begins on March 29 where training will take place full-time. Activities include classroom sessions where apprentices learn theoretical principles of fabrication which are then applied in shop sessions.

“We are pleased to add the apprenticeship program which will allow people to get their Level II certification close to home,” says Schwarzer. “This is the first time we are offering this level and we expect interest to be high.”

As Hwalstad continues to gain more experience at Columbia Steel Fabricating & Welding, he will be taking a break to get his formal training as he works towards becoming a journeyperson.

“Selkirk College is local and I love living here, there is no reason to leave,” he says.

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