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RPL and labor mobility, Department of Labor and Advanced Education, Government of Nova Scotia


Over the last five years the Government of Nova Scotia, through its Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE), has undertaken a number of initiatives to support the development of a comprehensive Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) system. In 2009 the Government of Nova Scotia established the Nova Scotia RPL Policy Framework. This Policy Framework set out the vision, mission, principles, and values underlying a comprehensive approach to RPL and identified the key goals and strategic actions necessary to support a province –wide system. It included actions to be undertaken by groups both within and outside of government and the steps necessary to assure sustainable leadership. The Policy Framework identified LAE as the lead partner in government for facilitating and coordinating the Framework and led to the creation of the RPL and Labour Mobility Unit within the Adult Education Division.

In its first year of implementation, the RPL Policy Framework called for the development of an Environmental Scan of RPL activity across all sectors. In subsequent years it has called for the use of competency frameworks for high priority professions and occupations, and the development of new initiatives to support the greater inclusion of under-represented groups in the work force.

Procedures and processes

The NS Government contracted the Prior Learning Centre in 2010 to complete the Environmental Scan of RPL Activities in the Province of Nova Scotia. It was the first such review of its kind. It resulted in a comprehensive inventory of RPL activities from a wide range of providers: education and training institutions, industry groups and employers, government departments, regulatory bodies and non-profit and community-based organizations. The results continue to provide a benchmark from which to improve and enhance the capacity of the overall system.

The RPL and Labor Mobility Unit established in 2011 has continued to provide leadership over this period, in implementing the Policy Framework, building the elements necessary for facilitating an RPL system. The Unit has supported the development of occupational standards and competency profiles for high priority occupations, and the application of competency –based assessment and alternative assessment methods. In addition the Unit has initiated innovations to recognize the learning of individuals from under-represented groups who have no formal qualifications (Record of Achievement).

Outcomes and Ways Forward

The project has had a record of achievement. The Adult Education division recognized that a percentage of their learners would never achieve high school completion or pass the General Educational Development (GED) test for a variety of reasons. Many of these learners had skills and knowledge that would make them good employees in entry level jobs, but often employers would not even consider their applications since they did not meet the minimum requirement of a high school diploma. The Record of Achievement project was originally conceived to address this issue, but it was apparent that it could also address challenges faced by the close to 100,000 working age Nova Scotians with few or no formal qualifications. The Record of Achievement (ROA) RPL methodologies assist individuals in identifying, documenting, and recognizing the skills and knowledge they have acquired through education life, community and work experience. It further provides supports for assessing this learning against the Nova Scotia Core Employability Skills Framework (or NS Core Skills Framework).

The NS Core Skills Framework is designed to provide a standard of essential and employability skills relative to entry level work in the 21st century. Certified Assessors conduct assessments using a variety of tools that provide a snapshot of where a person is in relation to the framework. The assessment results in a credential issued by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and signed by the Minister. The ROA is a living document that will change as the learner increases his/her knowledge and skills. It offers the employer a validation of the skills and learning of individuals that can be measured against occupational requirements. It offers the learner an opportunity to identify gaps as well as strengths and thus develop a personal plan for bridging these gaps toward securing employment or further training.

More pilot projects and the second validation of the NS Core Skills Framework are underway and the Department is planning for implementation in September 2015.


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