Open Letter to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

The following letter was addressed to the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour


Dear Minister,

With 95% of all Canadians and 86% of Indigenous peoples living within 50 kilometres of a location of a college, institute, cegep or polytechnic, these institutions are uniquely positioned to support skills development across the country.

CICan applauds the launch of the Canada Training Benefit (CTB). This program is a promising first step towards building a culture of lifelong learning in Canada and ensuring that Canadians possess the skills needed for a changing economy. Canada’s colleges, institutes, cegeps and polytechnics look forward to engaging with your department as the CTB is refined and implemented so that institutions are prepared to respond to the skills upgrading needs of Canadians and their employers, whether individuals are transitioning to new roles or displaced due to disruption in their workplaces.

In order to make the training supported through the CTB as targeted and efficient as possible Canadians need to know what to focus on when pursuing skills training. This is particularly the case for people from vulnerable groups who may not be aware of the skills they already have and can build upon through targeted training. Colleges and institutes have been using a suite of well-developed tools, processes and quality practices that allow people to receive recognition for what they bring from previous training and work experience, known as Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), or Recognition of Acquired Competencies (RAC). These processes include advising learners and assessing their skills and competencies based on knowledge they have acquired through prior formal, informal, and non-formal education and work experience. Learners who can reliably demonstrate their knowledge and skills in relation to academic learning outcomes are granted credit through PLAR toward related postsecondary or skills training programs. PLAR can benefit those who learned on the job, received training overseas, are transitioning into or out of the military. PLAR has the potential to streamline skills upgrading and reduce the training time and cost for learners, by recognizing what they already know and can do, and if necessary, provide targeted training for only those pieces of knowledge and skills they are missing, thereby eliminating the need to duplicate their learning. However, cost is often a barrier for learners to benefit from PLAR services at colleges and institutes, in particular for people from vulnerable groups.

We would like to highlight the benefits of PLAR and recommend that the CTB allow Canadians to claim the cost for PLAR services when applying for the Canada Training Credit and the EI Training Support Benefit. By enabling people to receive recognition for their prior learning, skills and experience, they know where to focus their training efforts and this in turn enables postsecondary institutions to better target the training. This also has the potential of encouraging people to seek further training and enable PSE institutions to develop shorter customized learning programs and individual learning contracts that target defined gaps. We strongly believe that PLAR will be key to making the CTB a success.

We would be pleased to provide more information and engage PLAR experts within CICan member institutions and from Canada’s only national PLAR organization, the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA), to help inform your Department’s work as the CTB is implemented. CICan would also be pleased to play a role in disseminating awareness of the CTB as well as the role of PLAR in streamlining training experiences.

Canada needs to develop a culture of lifelong learning – in workplaces, training institutions, and to empower individuals to learn new skills on their own. By providing support for recognizing those skills and turning them into transferrable credits and customized training opportunities, individuals have even more reason to focus on learning and skill development.


Denise Amyot
President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada