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Omar Abumuaileq

SFU Student Undergraduate
Applied Sciences › Sustainable Energy Engineering
Co-operative Education › Out-of-Town Co-op

Co-op Work Term Number
Position Title

Right on the border of British Columbia and Alberta and nestled between the Rockies, you can find the Elk Valley, in it lay the small communities of Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford just to name a few. Sparwood might be a small city with a population of about 3000, but it is a place that I have come to call home. Despite its size, Sparwood has a charm that is hard to ignore. The city’s compactness means that you can get anywhere within just five minutes, a convenience that I greatly appreciated during my co-op term at Teck Resources in their coal unit.

Being a ‘Future Fleet Decarbonization Co-op Student’ at Teck Resources was an enriching experience. It was here that I was able to apply the knowledge I had gained in the Sustainable Energy Engineering Program and contribute to the company’s mission while gaining valuable industry experience.

One of my more memorable experiences during the co-op term was managing a project to construct a prototype structure for a potential technology that our team was assessing. As a result, I got to lead and coordinate sourcing the parts, equipment, and labor. I was also in charge of coordinating between our sites and the different contractors and guests that we had for the installation day, ensuring that everyone was able to get to the site without any issues. This was a tough but worthwhile experience that showed me in a practical setting the importance of teamwork and good communication when managing projects. Another highlight is the team’s work truck which is an all-new electric pickup that we would use to get up to the mine sites on top of surrounding mountains in the valley. On-site I was shocked by the size of the equipment, despite being warned prior and being shown many pictures during training, it is still hard to comprehend how something the size of a house can move at speeds of 30+ km/hr with about 300 tonnes of material loaded on it. These haul trucks pale in size when compared to the shovels that fill them, these monsters tower over the houses on wheels and make them look like Tonka toys.

However, apart from work, I had some time to discover some great places in nature all around the Elk Valley. The Elk Valley is the perfect place for people who enjoy outdoor activities, so I tried to spend some time in nature. I liked to go fishing and spend a morning or an afternoon on the banks of one of the calm lakes or little rivers. I actually started to learn how to fly fish while living in the Elk Valley, which is something I had never tried before since on the coast I usually use a regular spinning setup. I also enjoyed sitting by the lake or in the middle of the woods, just listening to the sounds of nature and enjoying it. The best thing about fishing is that, if you are patient, you will catch a fish and it’s a great feeling that you have been successful in your effort.

The other activity I really enjoyed was snowboarding, my roommates and I picked it up after moving out to the Elk Valley. We all bought snowboards and our house was right at the base of a mountain, so sometimes, when we didn’t feel like driving up the mountainous road to the ski slopes and we had fresh snow out back, we would snowboard right outside of our home. You reach a stage of reflex when you lose consciousness of yourself and plunge down on that board that holds your weight with tremendous speed. You feel the adrenaline flush through you and watch as the world catches up with you. You can’t believe it, because it is so pretty out there, so beautiful and pure white, and the snow is like nothing you’ve ever known before, icy hard, sculpted formations and dreamy-like plowed drifts slipping and gliding through layers upon layers of texture. Snowboarding was a way to revel in winter and was the best way to enjoy our time when it was too cold to go fishing or hiking. 

The experience of the Elk Valley was not only about the activities we were doing; it was also about appreciating the beauty of the landscape – the sheer presence of the tall Rocky Mountains, the lush forests, and the clear blue sky. The stages of the different hikes and trails would change, but one thing that never did was the overwhelming sense of awe and inspiration caused by nature.

When I look back on my time here at Sparwood, I am thankful for all the experiences and growth I have had during this co-op term. It has been a time of learning, exploring, and growing. The lessons, the experiences, and the friends I have made have had a huge impact on my life. As I prepare to embark on my next venture, I carry these lessons and experiences with me.

To sum up, my time at Sparwood as a co-op student has been more than a job to me. It has been an adventure, a chance to develop and grow, and an opportunity to experience the beauty of the Elk Valley. The memories, skills, and experiences I have gained during this time will always be cherished. As I continue my career journey, I will continue to look back on this time with love and appreciation.