For a half century, students educated on the post-secondary campus high above Nelson have contributed to building communities across the West Kootenay and beyond. This month the Selkirk College Silver King Campus marks 50 years by looking back and steaming ahead to its next 50.
Officially opened as the BC Vocational School, more than 600 people attended an opening ceremony held on June 6, 1964. First announced in 1961, the vocational school was built on a 35-acre tract of land in Rosemont with a vision of expanding training opportunities for the men and women tasked with helping build a burgeoning province.
The opening of the BC Vocational School (now Selkirk College's Silver King Campus) was big news in the region in 1964.
“The school will provide general training and retraining of people to service industry that will develop this area,” BC’s Public Works Minister W.N Chant told the crowd in 1964. “This will form a key and integral part of the economy and growth of the province.”
At the time of its opening, the BC Vocational School—which cost an estimated $2,416,525 to build and equip—offered Automotive & Heavy Duty Mechanics, Welding and Millwrighting in its shops. Beauty Culture, Secretarial and Practical Nursing were also included on the campus that saw high enrolment in its early years. An added touch was the inclusion of Kootenay School of Art which was looking for a permanent location to house its programs that were offered separately from the vocational school.
The Selkirk College Era Begins
In 1975, the established vocational school was officially merged with Selkirk College. To mark the importance of the Toad Mountain area to Nelson’s mining past, the campus was renamed Silver King.
The Silver King Campus is located in the Rosemont neighbourhood of Nelson on land that was once orchard and farm.
Over the years trades offerings have come and gone based on the needs of the economy. The Silver King Campus has also housed other popular Selkirk College programs such as Professional Cook Training, Ski Resort Operations & Management (SROAM) and the Hospitality & Tourism Program which have all since moved to Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus.
“As it was intended, the Silver King Campus has been an integral part of the regional economy for five decades,” says Selkirk College President Angus Graeme. “It’s incredible to think of the amount of students who have bettered their lives and contributed to our region’s economy because of the programs offered at the campus. Selkirk College is proud to be part Silver King’s legacy to this region and our province.”
Today's Silver King Buzzes With Activity
Today the Silver King Campus is home to Hairdressing, Esthetics, Carpentry, Fine Woodworking, Heavy Mechanical, Plant Operator, Welding, Electrical, Millwright/Machinist, Metal Fabricator, Adult Basic Education, Transitional Training, and a wide range of community education courses and classes.
“We’ve always had a dedicated staff of seasoned trades people who are also really good instructors,” says Dan Obradovic, a 17-year Electrical Program instructor who has spent the last six as the Industry & Trades Training school chair. “Our school is small and our community is small, which makes it easy to maintain contact with industry and modify our training to address needs.”
Selkirk College will celebrate the Silver King Campus for the next 12 months and officially mark the golden anniversary with an event in September.