Centre for Employment Innovation’s Key Learnings (2017-2022)

Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)
What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)?
  • RPL is the umbrella term for a series of practices and processes used to identify, document, assess and recognize an individual’s existing skills and prior knowledge (Canadian Association of Prior Learning Assessment website, 2019). 
  • RPL recognizes that learning takes place throughout and across a person’s lifetime and doesn’t only occur in a formal educational setting, but in a diverse variety of both informal (learning picked up through life experiences), and nonformal (learning that occurs in a structured, but not strictly educational setting such as a conference or webinar) contexts.
  • In terms of employment, RPL assesses the competency(ies) an individual may have gained through formal, informal and non-formal learning to determine the extent to which the individual meets the requirements specified in the job description.
  • RPL accommodates a broad and diverse scope of learning backgrounds, learning styles, and experiences.
  • RPL is about making an individual’s competencies visible through assessment and guidance.
    What are the benefits of RPL for individuals?
    • RPL is beneficial for individuals who are newcomers to Canada as they may have the necessary experience despite not completing their education at an accredited Canadian institution.
    • RPL offers individuals the opportunity to identify knowledge that they already hold as well as develop specific competencies that need to be built directly through their work.
    • RPL lowers barriers to education and employment for marginalized populations. 
    • Creates a strengthened lifelong learning framework as RPL creates wider opportunities for achieving qualifications because RPL draws on lifelong and lifewide learning experiences. 
    • The RPL process allows individuals to recognize and validate prior learning achieved through work and life experiences. 
      What are the benefits of RPL for organizations?
      • Integrating RPL principles can speed up the acquisition of credentials required for successful employment outcomes. 
      • Having an RPL framework within a sector or profession allows for an increase in labour mobility from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and sector to sector. 
      • Incorporating RPL principles lowers barriers to education and employment for marginalized populations. 
      • Recognizing prior learning can reduce the time organizations spend training and certifying employees.  
      • RPL allows employers to advance workers who possess the relevant skills and experience for a particular job, especially when there is no identified career learning pathway.
      • RPL helps fill gaps in the labour market as alternative pathways to employment become available.
      • Increased labour mobility as it can increase the ability of employed people to change career and employers.
      • RPL processes help to create an empowered labour force, as opportunities for decent work and lifelong learning open up to more individuals, including groups who are disadvantaged in the labour market. 
        How can employers recruit employees through RPL?
        • Avoid being too specific in prerequisites for the job.
        • Use language that is accessible and inclusive as this eliminates barriers to candidates. 
        • Apart from explicitly formal credentials, employers can include alternative experiential criteria in job postings.
        • Employers may also need to rethink their evaluation practises; they may need to evaluate resumes through an RPL lens. However, they are more able to be transparent with candidates on how they will be evaluated.
        • In order to ensure that the knowledge and experiences of people from various social identify groups are taken into account, RPL models or frameworks should consider experiential learning from a variety of contexts.
        • RPL evaluation can be a resource-intense process, however it doesn’t necessarily require more financial support to do it; however, at least one staff member needs to be versed in evaluating through an RPL lens to ensure that candidates’ resumes and RPL assessments are being thoroughly examined and processed  
          What are Employability Skills?
          • Apart from job-related knowledge and abilities, employers should also consider employability skills as they can be a good indicator of a reliable and employable candidate. 
          • Employability skills are sometimes referred to as “soft skills” which are traits and capabilities needed to be successful at a job. 
          • Some examples of employability skills include:
            • Accountability
            • Problem solving skills
            • Communication 
            • Time management
            • Presentation skills
            • Adaptability
          • There are various employability assessment tools (some can be downloaded for free while others can be purchased) which can help employers to determine the strong and less strong employability skills that a candidate might have. 
              What are some examples of RPL assessment methods?

              Methods of assessing prior learning may include one or more of the following: 

              • Written or e-Portfolios
                • A record of an individual’s learning from educational, work and personal experiences. It is developed by the individual to support their claim of competence and credit toward being accepted as a candidate.
                • When a portfolio is created, it contains all the applicant’s relevant information on what has been learned and how, when and where.
                • Portfolios might include CVs, references from employers or supervisors (current or past), performance appraisal documents, references from colleagues, photographs of completed work or videos of work in progress 
                  • Competency Assessments (e.g., skill demonstration, presentation, tests and examinations, structured interviewing)
                    • These assessments allow for the evaluation of an individual’s experience in terms of their knowledge, skills, and abilities as they relate to the competencies required for the given position.
                    • In many cases, hiring an individual who has good employability skills and who the employer feels would be a good fit within the organizational culture can meet the required competencies for a job through post-hiring on-the-job training.  
                    • International Credential Assessments
                      • RPL processes can help in assessing newcomers’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities, especially when accessing information from the country of origin is not possible.    
                      What are Microcredentials and how can employers use them?
                      • A microcredential is a certifying process of assessing learning that is additional, alternate, or complementary to, or a component of a formal qualification.   
                      • Microcredentials differ from traditional education credentials, such as degrees and diplomas, as they are shorter and often stackable.
                      • Microcredentials are subject to a robust and rigorous quality assurance process. 
                      • Microcredentials represent competencies identified by employers to meet employer needs.
                      • Microcredentials are stackable, providing clear and seamless pathways linking different successfully completed training opportunities (e.g., webinars, workshops, short courses, certificates, etc.)
                      • Micocredential providers can be innovative, agile, responsive and quick to market and allow learners to upskill or reskill without taking a traditional length program.
                      • Microcredentials provide learners an opportunity to upskill or reskill without taking a traditional length program and certify an individual’s achievements in specific skills either acquired through education or work experience.
                      • Microcredentials provide a clear way for learners to confidently showcase their skills to employers and provide distinctive value and relevance in the changing labour market.
                      • Microcredentials are one way in which individuals can provide evidence to employers that they have learned a new skill. 

                      For more information on microcredentials, check out the Dalhousie Website and the NSCDA website. For a webinar on RPL and microcredentials, check out the Manitoba Prior Learning Assessment Network (MPLAN) website