Mechanic Program Students Gain Industry Insight

March 25, 2024
Summit visits heavy mechanics shop one

Keeping the wheels moving with a feeling of pride was the message delivered to a class of Heavy Mechanical Foundation Program students when industry veteran Louis Bouchard pulled a semi-trailer truck into Nelson’s Silver King Campus.

Learners in the nine-month program are training for entry-level positions in Red Seal trades that include truck and transport mechanic, diesel engine mechanic, transport trailer technician, and heavy-duty equipment technician. Now halfway through an important first step in their formal education, Bouchard stopped by to provide insight from Summit Truck & Equipment Repair that’s located just outside Salmo.

“There is a great feeling of accomplishment being a mechanic,” said Bouchard, who is a Red Seal mechanic and the service manager at Summit. “You can put your hands on something that was broken and through hard work you can fix it. This is a very tangible trade and at the end of day you can be proud of your work. It’s very rewarding.”

Summit Truck & Equipment Repair is part of the Sutherland Group that includes several different entities such as Sutco Transportation Specialists. Rolling into the Silver King Campus shop with a shiney new Peterbilt, Bouchard provided stories from his career and deeper understanding about opportunities that exist across the trade. 

Bouchard told the class of 14 students that it’s a great time to enter an industry that is crucial to keeping the supply chain going. Without truck drivers, goods don’t crisscross the continent. And without mechanics, the vehicles they drive are not guaranteed to get them to where they are going.  

“You need to build trust with your customers and you need to keep it,” said Bouchard, who has been with Summit for 11 years after time spent in Alberta and his native Quebec. “You build relationships by doing everything to the best of your ability. When you care, you do a good job and when the customer is satisfied, then you can hold your head up.”

Providing Depth to Training

Program instructor Joe Malinowski spent 40 years on the wrenches before turning to full-time teaching this past September. As students took a look under the Peterbilt hood and gleaned wisdom from Bouchard, the industry veteran said it was a key point in the learning schedule to illustrate industry knowledge.   

Summit visits heavy mechanics shop three
Summit Truck & Equipment Repair service manager Louis Bouchard (in red) joined the Selkirk College Heavy Mechanics Program class in the Silver King Campus shop to provide an insider's view on the trade.


“It’s important to build up the confidence of students and I could tell they were listening,” said Malinowski, who holds Red Seal credentials in both automotive service technician and heavy duty equipment technician. “At this stage of their education, it’s natural for students to be uncertain about where they are going with this trade. This visit helped them build a little more confidence in themselves and Louis provided a very positive vibe.”

The college’s Heavy Mechanical Foundation Program is a terrific entry point for those wanting an in-demand career. Students learn theoretical principles of vehicle mechanics in the classroom. They apply their knowledge in the shop where they perform numerous diagnostic procedures, preventative maintenance procedures, removals, repairs, and installations of components on trucks, commercial transport vehicles and heavy equipment.

Following in the work boots of his father, Malinowski looks back in his four-decade career with gratitude that he earned a solid paycheque while problem-solving in the shop. With a zeal for his new direction mentoring students in the classroom and shop, he enjoys helping future mechanics realize their potential. 

“The best part is when the lightbulb goes on… you can see it in their face,” Malinowski said. “It’s very satisfying to be in that environment where you can watch these students grow in their knowledge. It gives me a sense of pride knowing that I have touched the future workforce. I have been in the career for more than 40 years and turning to teaching is very satisfying… I can’t wait to get to work in the morning.”

Rolling Towards a Future Career

Though most students are still in the early stages of their pathway to a Red Seal, the Summit Truck & Equipment Repair visit helped bring some clarity.

Summit visits heavy mechanics shop two
Taking a look under the hood of the Peterbilt rig on the Silver King Campus.

“It was an awesome visit, Louis was very descriptive about what we could expect,” said student Luca Cote. “It was very good information and he was very encouraging.”

Youth Train in Trades (YTT) student Dane Jones is still in high school, but chose the dual-credit program to get a jumpstart on a possible career as a mechanic. Offered through Skilled Trades BC, the YTT pathway helps get high school students who are leaning towards careers in areas such as carpentry, electrician, welding, hairstylist, millwright/machinist and metal fabricator into the classrooms at the Silver King Campus.  

“I have been into machines and fixing things since I was young, it’s what I am passionate about,” said Jones, who will graduate from both Nelson’s LV Rogers Secondary and the Selkirk College program later this spring. “With this trade there is a great feeling of accomplishment, it feels good when you can make a difference.”

Learn more about opportunities in the School of Industry & Trades Training.

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