Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences opened in Port Alberni in 2010 and is already at capacity and looking to expand by almost 5

Pacific Coast University applies for expansion grant

Six years after opening in Port Alberni, Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences has applied for a federal grant to expand.

Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences has applied for a federal grant to expand, just six years after opening its doors in Port Alberni.

Pacific Coast University was invited to apply for the grant, and put together an 80-page application in two weeks, said Wolfgang Zimmerman, president of PCU-WHS.

Expansion would cost approximately $2.2 million and the government grant would cover half of the cost, Zimmerman said.

The federal government announced a $2 billion strategic investment fund in support of capital expenditures for post-secondary institutions across Canada in its April 6 budget, and this is what the university has applied for, he added.

Expansion would be 4,880 square feet above the existing lecture theatre and would create additional classrooms, office space, washrooms and a distributed learning centre.

There is already a partial second floor and elevator access to where the new area would be.

The expansion would not significantly change the building’s footprint, Zimmerman said, as all construction would create a second floor above the lecture hall.

The only change would be a fire exit stairwell that will have to be built on the side of the building, but there is room.

“This unique post-secondary institution has an important beneficial impact on our Vancouver Island community,” Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns wrote in support of the proposed expansion.

“In this difficult economic climate, PCU-WHS offers a replacement economy—that of the high-value education industry…It provides much-needed positive impact on the economic development in this area.”

The university would phase in expansion over two years, beginning with detailed architectural drawings from lead architect Chris Pollard, who designed the original university.

Expansion couldn’t come at a better time for PCU-WHS. The institution partnered with three research project proposals through a new research fund created through Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and all three were accepted.

“They (CIHR) created a healthy and productive workplace fund in the fall of 2014 because they thought this is a whole new area we need to pay attention to,” Zimmerman said.

There were 57 applications, but only 20 of them received funding. Zimmerman wasn’t expecting all three of the projects they partnered with to be accepted.

The first project is with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and will use an assessment protocol audit tool developed by NIDMAR, which operates out of PCU-WHS.

The second project is with the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto and addresses occupational therapy for invisible injuries.

The third, a joint project between Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, addresses return to work strategies for patients with breast cancer.

“All of these will start next fall,” Zimmerman said.

Once Pacific Coast University’s expansion is complete in a couple of years, there will be more office and classroom space for projects such as these to occur on a regular basis. Zimmerman is also excited at the prospect of having a multimedia distributed learning centre for distance learning.

“We’re looking to support new curriculum development, to potentially fund scholarships and bursaries for students taking classes,” he said.

The university has also been appointed a federal deputy minister university champion.

Zimmerman expects to hear whether their funding application was approved later this summer.

“We would start as soon as we basically have approval,” he said.




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