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Across Canada, there are hundreds of tree planters who have reason to be thankful for Okanagan College and the research of one of its therapy assistant program professors, Darrel Skinner.
And while the tree-planters might not know – and may not even care about such things – today (Feb. 26) is B.C. Colleges Day, proclaimed by the provincial government and celebrated in Victoria at the Legislature.
Where does tree-planting intersect with provincial proclamations? At the point where Colleges contribute to the economic, cultural and social fabric of this province and country.
Darrell’s story is a great example of how Okanagan Colleges and the other Colleges of Canada contribute in ways that might go generally unrecognized.
In summer 2017, Darrell – aware of the many injuries (especially tendonitis) suffered by tree planters - undertook research (funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, one of the three major research granting councils in this country) that looked at what could be done to prevent or treat those injuries.
The outcomes were positive, although tree-planting business owners have used much more enthusiastic descriptors: “revolutionized injury management” and “game-changing” are two of the phrases that we’ve heard.
To put Darrell’s applied research in a nutshell, the taping techniques he developed, with a partner firm in Houston, British Columbia, and a tree planting company in Smithers, have reduced initial injuries among planters, shortened the recovery time of those who are injured, and have yielded increased income for planters, and improved productivity for businesses.
The initial research grant was $23,000.
Darrell is surprised by how far and fast the research outcomes have pervaded the industry and how quickly firms across Canada have picked up on the techniques. One of Canada’s largest treeplanting firms made the taping mandatory for first- and second-year treeplanters.
Darrell’s story is not unique.
The record of the School of Business, its professors and students contributing to significant community projects extends throughout the Okanagan and Shuswap valleys. Witness the recent Economic Scorecard developed for Kelowna – Dr. Heather Banham, a retired OC Dean of Business, and Dr. Lynn Sparling, the current chair of OC’s Business Administration department, were engines helping drive development of that tool.
Whether it is in teaching budgeting and financial literacy to thousands of elementary students or helping launch entrepreneurial efforts in the Shuswap, the records of achievement and accomplishment are pervasive.
The same is true of our Trades and Apprenticeship department, whether it is OC’s leading-edge Women in Trades program, support for building social housing, helping companies such as KF Aerospace meet their need for skilled workers, or engaging in research projects that demonstrate the value of the latest green building techniques and materials.
Cultural contributions abound, whether it is nationally-recognized novels written by our English professors or plays produced by the College’s Red Dot Players.
The list goes on and on, and changes from year to year. It is a continuum of contributions that dates to 1963 when the federal and provincial governments established OC’s predecessor, the British Columbia Vocational School.
Okanagan College is bigger than ever today, serving more local students with more programs and bringing more people from outside our region to our campuses and centres to learn and contribute to our economy and culture.
Our staff and our students are engaged in building our communities in ways that are impossible to track but are worth noting when they come to our attention.
Ask the treeplanters and their employers.
And take a minute today to celebrate B.C. Colleges Day.
- Jim Hamilton
President, Okanagan College