Realizing the devastating affect the Covid-19 pandemic has brought, and continues to bring, to our country and the world, staff and students at Canada’s colleges and institutes have stepped forward to offer their skills, expertise and facilities to help their fellow citizens in many different ways.
From applied research to community support and information management, many institutions of higher learning are utilizing their staff, students, alumnae and equipment for practical use in dealing with our current situation.
The ways they are helping are as diverse as the courses and programs Canadaís colleges provide to their students.
Many colleges are using their equipment to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care providers on the front lines.
3D printers are being utilized to make face shields and components of other equipment. Other manufacturing equipment has been redirected to fabricate medical masks including N95.
Other colleges are offering to redeploy manufacturing equipment and labs to aid business in their production of medical devices and supplies.
College alumnae are also stepping up with their contribution of medical equipment made in their factories and other workspaces. One alum from BCIT developed a lightweight face shield that attaches to the brim of any standard ball cap.
Colleges with medical courses have donated the hospital beds, PPE and lab equipment that would normally be used by the students to hospitals in our communities that are fighting the crisis.
Some colleges with Respiratory Therapy courses have donated the ventilators used by their students and have even sent their students to the front lines, monitoring Covid-19 patients who need this equipment. 117 respiratory therapist students from Ontario colleges were called into service for this purpose.
One graduate from Seneca College even converted his 25,000 square foot brewery, All or Nothing Brewhouse, into a hand sanitizer manufacturing facility.
Colleges are opening their residences to provide temporary housing options for healthcare professionals, or even converting some of their existing space into emergency field hospitals.
Other students and alumnae are working to make PPE more comfortable to wear by designing and donating items such as ear savers and headbands for the countryís essential workers.
Paramedic students from Loyalist College were able to graduate early and hit the ground running while helping out their beleaguered colleagues.
Collaborating with local industry, faculty from the Respiratory Therapy and BioMedical Engineering Technology courses at St. Clair College teamed up to design a device that will automatically inflate and deflate a manual ventilator bag, freeing up health care providers to deal with the increasing volume of Covid-19 patients.
Several health information management students have been deployed to assist with record-keeping and tracking the spread of the virus.
Itís not just equipment and supplies that colleges and institutes are providing in the battle against Covid-19, there are many community supports that now exist due to the generosity of the colleges and students.
For example, College of the North Atlantic offers free wellness supports to the public that are aimed at mental and physical health during the pandemic.
There are a number of colleges who are assisting those in need of food security. By providing kitchen space in cutting-edge facilities, they allow volunteers to prepare and distribute food where it is greatly needed.
Some emergency food banks have received monetary donations while others benefit from the student volunteers who give of their time to help others in need, like a Vancouver Community College Jewellery Art and Design student who donates profits from her small business to the local food bank.
Researchers at Conestoga College are working on a mobile software application for supply chain workers that will allow them to maintain proper social distancing regulations.
Still other colleges are offering free online learning for business community members, helping owners adapt their businesses to the changing environment of today. Virtual workshops help small business owners in re-working and revamping various areas of their business. Courses will cover everything from setting up a new business to project management and business analysis.
And in the race to defeat Covid-19, biotechnology researchers from Lambton College have begun collaborative work with a bioceuticals company on a mini-string DNA-based vaccine designed to simulate an immune response artificially.
Itís not just book learning going on at Canadaís colleges. The leaders of tomorrow are coming together, helping each other and touching lives across the country. Now, more than ever, these are the qualities that come shining through in our colleges and institutes.
By Jackie Fritz