Ensuring new workers have desired skills

Prior learning


Building upon the recent successful completion of its first prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) project, the Wood Manufacturing Council (WMC) is undertaking a new initiative in this very important area. The new project, entitled “Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) for the Advanced Wood Manufacturing Sector – Phase II”, will respond to the findings and recommendations emanating from the initial PLAR work carried out during 2008 and 2009.

This two-year project will assist the Canadian advanced wood manufacturing industry to help improve the ability of individual firms within the sector to assess and recognize qualifications of potential new entrants, who in turn will be able to access employment/career opportunities within the sector. The results of this project will help improve the employment integration of workers, including foreign trained individuals, into the industry and help individual firms to fill current and future skills gaps.
Benefits for our sector
There are various benefits that PLAR provides to the advanced wood products sector. It helps identify employees from non-traditional sources to fill labour shortages. PLAR also fairly assesses the appropriateness of a potential employee’s training and skills, whether these were obtained in another country or in another industry.
PLAR also saves time and money by helping employers hire successfully – in other words, getting the right person for the right job. Training duplication is also eliminated because the value of an individual’s training from other places, sources and experiences are evaluated.
Finally, another major benefit stemming from PLAR is that it can help potential employees recognize the value of a career in the advanced wood products sector by demonstrating how their skills and capabilities can be transferred to this sector from other careers and experiences.
Moving forward
This initiative is at its midpoint, and the national steering committee formed to oversee this project, comprised of industry human resources professionals and representatives of governments, immigrant service agencies and the education community, is providing direction on the development of the assessment tools.
Under the guidance of the committee, work has been completed on the development of the content for the tools for the five occupations for which we currently have occupational standards. These are: Wood Manufacturing Machine Operator, CNC Operator, Finisher, Assembler, and Supervisor. Additional assessment tools will be developed and added in the future as new occupational standards are created.
This material has recently been validated by industry and other stakeholders through five online webinars, and has been reviewed and vetted by the steering committee at its most recent meeting held June 23, 2011 in Winnipeg.
Online and offline tools
The content of the PLAR assessment tools will be configured into the online software program chosen by WMC for delivery to industry stakeholders over the next several months. The online assessment tools will be further validated by representatives from the stakeholder groups, noted above, in three regional workshops currently planned for October 20, 25 and November 3, 2011, in Fredericton, Toronto and Winnipeg respectively.
When final validation is complete, these PLAR assessment tools will be made available through an online software program for general use by the wood manufacturing industry. We will also be able to produce paper copies of the documents for those who do not have online capability.
More information about PLAR, a project funded by the Government of Canada’s Foreign Credential Recognition Program, can be gained by contacting the WMC.
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council.


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