After an intense safety planning and curriculum adjustment, trades students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) are slowly returning to campus for crucial class projects.
To keep trades students on track, BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment collaborated with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to develop an extensive risk assessment plan with enhanced protocols that enabled seven Level 4 Joinery students back onto the Burnaby Campus.
The students returned for one-week of training to acquire the essential applied skills required to take their Interprovincial Red Seal Exam.
The school also recently implemented plans to get 64 carpentry students back into their shops. These students, who are enrolled in Carpentry Level 1, 3 and 4, are on campus for up to four weeks to acquire the applied skills needed to complete their training.
The policies and guidelines were developed based on public health officer and WorkSafeBC guidelines for post-secondary institutions.
Wayne Hand, dean of the School of Construction and the Environment, explained the school told students to stay home back in March when the pandemic began to hit and immediately began planning virtual training. Within a week or two, most programs were back up and running with a combination of videos, simulations, demonstrations and online questions.
But after several weeks, some trades programs would have been unable to be completed without some time in a shop. Group projects, tight work areas and shared tools all had to be reworked so students could keep their distance, said Hand.
“We tried to minimize the risk and make things as efficient as possible,” he said.
This included completely reorganizing shop areas, adding signs, installing sneeze guards, providing students with all their own tools and materials and having a dedicated cleaner regularly disinfecting high-touch areas and bathrooms through the day.
Hand said the forced push to make training more available from a distance has been praised by many students who commute and it could prove useful in the future.
“The pandemic forced everybody to accept these conditions and do it,” said Hand. “The feedback from faculty and students has been very positive and there have been lots of lessons learned. I think there is value here in terms of what we created. We may not entirely go back to how things were.”
He noted more virtual training options allow people who are working or who live far away to get training more readily.
Hand said the school intends to make up for lost time during the summer and keep working on plans to get more students safely back on the tools and through their training, including electrical and piping trades students.
He noted that not only is it important to the school to keep students moving through their training, but also to the province, as construction is emerging as a key part of rebuilding B.C.’s economy.
“I think it’s really important to everyone in construction to keep the economy going and BCIT certainly helps in terms of our training,” said Hand. “It has been really satisfying to get students back on the campus.”
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