Domain: Group Two - Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)
Project: Learning Labour - A PLAR Project
April 1, 1997
Academic Investigator: Dr. Bruce Spencer (Athabasca U.)
Student Researcher: Derek Briton (U. Alberta)
The project is
investigating the learning that takes place within labour organizations. The
intention is to recognize the non-formal and informal learning associated with
activity in labour unions and relate that to credits within the formal
educational system, in particular to labour studies and labour relations courses
in colleges and universities.
Labour education spans
a range of "tools", "issues" and "labour studies"
courses (Spencer, 1994) which have few linkages to college and university credit
courses (limited exceptions include George Brown College and Athabasca
University). Put simply, labour education programs (and the learning of the
union members) are not generally recognized by the formal educational system.
In addition to labour
education for activists and representatives labour offers a range of other
workplace-based courses for members, ranging across basic education and language
training, health and safety and vocational issues which will also be
A further area of
inquiry is the informal learning associated with union activity such as
knowledge about: running meetings, advocacy, representation, leadership and
democratic processes and the insights gained into understanding such concepts as
"incorporation" and "independence" as the apply to labour
The intention is to
achieve a very practical outcome: a schema suggesting a method of linking
"learning labour" to college and university credits. This would act as
an encouragement to working people to engage in credit courses which may benefit
themselves and their organizations. It would grant credit -- a form of advanced
standing -- which acknowledges what they have learned from their experience and
from their labour education is valuable, important knowledge recognized as such
by the academy.
The project relies on
co-operation from individual unions and labour centrals. Unions such as CEP,
Steelworkers, CAW, CUPE, PSAC, IWA and AUPE, and labour centrals at provincial (eg
OFL, ALF) and national level (eg CLC) have (or can be expected to) co-operate
(the Ontario region of CEP was the first to endorse this proposal). The project
could also be linked to the work of the Labour College of Canada and the new CLC
training initiative (AU has some links with all of these labour organizations).
Data is being collected from all participating unions; data relating to the
range, nature and duration of labour education courses and programs and to
informal learning within those organizations. Other information will be gathered
from colleges and universities offering labour studies and labour relations
Eventually a matrix or
schema will be suggested for linking learning labour to credit. This schema will
be discussed with all the participants.