With the stroke of a pen, Port Alberni has become the centre of international training in preventing, managing and retraining people with disabilities.
A contingent representing the International Social Security Association (ISSA) visited Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences (PCU-WHS) Monday morning to tour the school and sign a memorandum of understanding. The MOU will see the Swiss based ISSA adopt standards and practices developed by the National Institute of Disability Management and Research (NIDMAR), which is headquartered at PCU-WHS, to be taught around the world.
“The concepts developed here are world leading,” said ISSA secretary-general Hans-Horst Konkolewsky.
“There is a growing attention towards the need to prevention of injuries and in healthcare and the workplace.”
Konkolewsky said countries spend 15-25 per cent of their GDP on social security and with an aging workforce and shrinking population in developed countries, the need to prevent workplace accidents and bring disabled people back to the workforce is critical to keep social security costs down.
Developing countries are seeing a growing amount of workplace injuries, which will result in a strain on their social security too.
“It’s a waste if we have not done enough to prevent accidents or not bring people back to work because of sickness or injuries,” Konkolewsky added.
“We need to focus more on prevention and return to work programs.”
ISSA is based in Geneva and has 336 members in 157 countries.
PCU-WHS president Wolfgang Zimmerman called this a “groundbreaking” agreement.
“Essentially a United Nations agency has trust and confidence to proceed with us,” Zimmerman said. “We will work in collaboration with ISSA in the context of this agreement which will create a huge opportunity for this area, for this region.”
Most students currently take courses online, but programs at the university are held at times. The university is offering a summer program this year, which was physically attended by 30 people last year.
In September, a delegation of students from Malaysia will attend the learning institution.
PCU-WHS is planning to become a degree accredited university and this international recognition should help convince the provincial government to grant it, Zimmerman added. He said he is hoping to get an answer in a few weeks and if he gets the accreditation, the university will finally open its degree granting doors in September 2014.