Wolfgang Zimmerman is president of Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

New scholarship at Pacific Coast University boosts disability retraining

BY MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

A new scholarship provides a direct hand to disabled workers and promises to advance the profession of disability management through Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences (PCU-WHS).

The Port Alberni-based university and WorkSafeBC announced the scholarship, a two-year pilot project in support of students pursuing a career in disability management, on March 8.

“It’s in many ways a tremendous endorsement,” said PCU President Wolfgang Zimmerman. “What it really does is put the university on the map in a very different way, but equally, it ties into the whole notion of right-to-work legislation and disability.”

The scholarship provides up to $150,000 annually to allow a maximum of 25 students with relevant prerequisites to transfer to the bachelor of disability management degree program at the specialized institution. Workers who have been injured can obtain support for their transition back to employment — a basic principle behind national right-to-work legislation expected to become law later this year — in the emerging field of supporting disabilities in the workplace.

“Effective return-to-work programs are critical to maintaining an injured worker’s physical, mental and financial health,” said Lee Loftus of WorkSafeBC’s board.

Zimmerman said the applied bachelor qualification offered through PCU-WHS is the first of its kind nationally and internationally.

“It focuses on the core competencies required to help workplaces develop a culture of accommodation and successfully maintain employment for workers who acquire mental or physical health impairment,” he said.

Students must complete a two-year diploma or other prerequisites to be eligible for the scholarship of $6,000, which covers most tuition costs for the bachelor program.

“This is kind of a win-win for us and for Port Alberni,” Zimmerman added, noting the project has caught the interest of worker compensation boards across the country.

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