PEARL 2014: WPLAR and WEM


Left to right: Mavis Lewis-Webber (Chair, MPLAN), Graham Dowdell (WPLAR Labour Co-Chair), Herman Hansen (WEM Business Co-Chair), Jonas Sammons (WPLAR Business Co-Chair) and Sandi Howell (Provincial Director, Essential Skills and RPL)

The MPLAN PEARL Award is given for the Pursuit of Excellence in the Assessment and Recognition of prior Learning. (More about the PEARL Award)

Background for this Award

Manitoba Prior Learning Assessment Network (MPLAN) is a not for profit organisation provincial association. It is made up of those who support the recognition of prior learning. Membership includes industry, workplace, education, government and community practitioners. MPLAN was established in 1994.

This PEARL award to WPLAR and WEM is long overdue. In fact, several winners of the PEARL Award in the past decade have been employers/unions who had benefited from the many RPL/PLAR lessons and supports available from both WPLAR and WEM. In short, without the basic RPL work done by those two organizations, far fewer PEARL Awards would have been made.

Pursuit of Excellence

Despite the fact that its mandate was clearly Essential Skills/ES in the workplace, for over 20 years WEM has also been successfully practising and promoting PLAR/RPL in the workplace. It did this in two ways. First, in an understated way, it simply included RPL as an integral part of its hugely successful ES efforts in workplaces across Manitoba. In addition, strategically speaking, it worked tirelessly to engage both employers and labour unions at the very top levels by treating both ES and PLAR/RPL as long term partnerships among management, unions and government.

For more than a decade WPLAR has followed this pattern and built upon these successes. WPLAR, often working with WEM, has greatly expanded the range of RPL- related activities in Manitoba to include not only workplace projects but also valuable RPL research plus truly impressive development of the PLAR/RPL community of practice.

Results Achieved

  • The number of employees who have been assessed for prior learning of the specific Essential Skills relevant to each WEM workplace project over the past two decades has without doubt been very, very large. Unfortunately, these individual assessments were not tracked in a way that would make their numbers available now.
  • Just within the most recent five year period of 2008/9 to 2013/4, as part of WEM’s Igniting the Power Within, over 1,200 largely indigenous Manitobans were trained to deliver Portfolio Advisory services. Subsequently, about 800 portfolios were built across rural/northern Manitoba and there have been over 500 RPL related assessments. In addition, 150 RPL practitioners were trained.
  • In its first two years of operation, i-WEST( an initiative of WEM) has provided training to immigrant professionals and approximately 150 of them have produced individual e-portfolios.
  • In the period 2001 to 2014, WPLAR supported the following initiatives:
    • 29 explicitly RPL/PLAR initiatives focussed on specific sectors, occupations, northern communities, disability groups, e.g. aviation maintenance, bus manufacturing, Early Childhood Education professionals, Certified Technicians and Technologists, Midwifery, Internationally Educated Professionals and Trades persons.
    • Nine published reports or research projects in RPL related issues including Gap Training, Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, PLAR by distance and a PLAR Literature Review.
    • Establishment of the website www.wplar.ca which is now an important element in the RPL community in Manitoba as it has enabled RPL Practitioners to communicate with one another about best practices.
  • The WEM and WPLAR models are recognised and actively supported within this province by unions and major employers, and also by many sector councils including the largest- Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
  • Beyond Manitoba:
    • WEM and WPLAR have had ongoing success over the years in gaining substantial funding support for ES and RPL from the Federal government.
    • The Manitoba model has been adopted by several other provinces (Alberta, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.).

In short, the state of the art in RPL in Manitoba, much lauded across the country, would not be as advanced or as vibrant were it not for the long and untiring efforts in the recognition of prior learning by both WPLAR and WEM.