Federal minister champions Alberni Valley university

University hopes spotlight will help its students

Port Alberni’s Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences (PCU-WHS) is forming a better link between the school and the federal government through a Deputy Minister University Champion Initiative.

The senior associate deputy minister of the Department of National Defence, Jody Thomas, and the champion for PCU-WHS, visited the campus last Thursday to learn more about what the university offers and how she can promote it federally.

“Every deputy minister in the

federal government has been assigned a university and we work with the university to help market their programs and their graduates to the federal government,” Thomas said. “The federal government likes to be one of the largest recruiters of recent university graduates for a range of programs, and we are to promote the federal government as an employer to graduates and universities.”

According to the Government of Canada’s website, the program’s strategy is designed to support robust and relevant public administration education and research so that the federal public service has access to leading ideas and theories, a new generation of public administration scholars and new employees who are well-educated in modern public management.

Pacific Coast University is a non-profit, special-purpose university with focus on the conditions and means through which the health and safety, work capacity and well-being of people in the workplace are enhanced, maintained, supported or diminished.

Being one of the smallest universities in Canada, Thomas said a challenge will be getting the word out that the university is available in Port Alberni and about the programs that are offered.

“I’ve been about a year as the champion and I’ve done a little work in Ottawa to talk about the university to other deputy ministers,” Thomas said. “The challenge is actually having enough hours in the day to talk about it.”

Because PCU-WHS has a focus on workplace safety, Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, said Thomas inherited the opportunity to be the school’s champion.

“Jody is very familiar with workplace and health, being that she was the commissioner of the Canadian coast guard, that’s a very dangerous business,” Johns said.

Johns said 1.2 million Canadians are out of work because of workplace and health injuries.

“We need partnerships, we need federal, provincial and local government champions on the education side… having that conversation making sure there’s awareness,” Johns said. “We’re delighted to have [Thomas] here. She works cross ministries with all the deputy ministers. She will be talking to those people about the opportunities.”

In addition to touring the school, Thomas also visited Coulson Aviation at the regional airport and the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) during her trip to Port Alberni.

“Coulson is a Canadian success story. That’s an extraordinary enterprise; small, homegrown, Canadian technology that’s effecting safety around the world, especially their wildfire fighting capacity,” Thomas said.

“I think there’s some work there that can be done to assist them and raise some of their issues, they brought up a few regulatory issues that they’re having. I can go back and talk to the department heads who are responsible in other departments for those particular functions.”

Thomas said, as the former commissioner of the Canadian coast guard, what is happening at PAPA, like the proposed Port Alberni Transshipment HUB, is “of huge interest.”

“Shipping, safety and managing shipping on the West Coast is a very, very hot issue right now and so I think the plans for the port are really interesting,” Thomas said.

“I’ll talk to my colleague commissioner Jeffery Hutchinson, who is the current commissioner of the coast guard, about coming out and having a look because I think the coast guard could partner, especially on oil spill response training…that is really important if you’re going to increase the amount of shipping coming into the port.



PCU-WHS president Wolfgang Zimmerman, left, Senior associate deputy minister of the department of national defence, Jody Thomas and Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan meet in Port Alberni. PAUL KYBA PHOTO

Senior associate deputy minister of the department of national defence, Jody Thomas, meets with Wayne Coulson, right, at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. PAUL KYBA PHOTO

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