An important aspect of this work place MSD program is the use of Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) credits. This process of identifying, documenting, assessing and recognizing what a worker knows and can do has been very successful at Boeing. PLAR for credit in the established grade twelve courses in Aerospace Technology and Management is an ideal link between workplace learning and academic credit.
The way in which I feel I can best convey an understanding of the information gained through the data collection process is from a temporal perspective. That is to say, a learning journey that is described chronologically, with events placed along a time line. The broad categories are (1) Initial Worker Decisions and Motivators, (2) Changes that Occurred During the Program, (3) A Springboard to Recent Informal Learning, and (4) Looking Ahead Down the Learning Path. These provide a continuum in which the learning paths of those who participated in the study unfolds. Trigger events and decision making about learning, acquisition of incidental skills and knowledge, and thoughts on lifelong learning and work appear along such a path. My title reference to transgression of boundaries maintains that although learners follow a continuum in their learning, the path is not formed in distinct, separate lines. Considerable crossover and mingling of all learning types form the base of knowledge and skills one acquires as they move along this path.
Step one of the journey is the decision to become involved with formal training. Why would a worker do so when this was not a condition of continued employment or advancement? The foremost reason was to achieve grade twelve graduation. As one learner said she
“…wanted to finish something I left behind all those years ago.”
“I wanted it for a long time and the opportunity was great.”
This need to “finish up old business” was further prompted by societal and family pressures, such as solid modeling to children and, as expressed by all interviewees, a realization that things were forever changing and moving ahead. This jump-started a need to “find out a better practice”, and sharpen skills as they had all been out of school for some time. This need for personal upgrading was recognized by both non-graduates and graduates taking part in the study.
Workplace instructors affirmed this desire for employees to achieve the long term goal of graduation as well as skill upgrading. They also agreed with one learner’s comment about the logistical ease of formal training when classes are on-site and company supported, and how this supportive environment acts as a further incentive for workers to engage in the formal classroom instruction. Additional reasons also focused on the ideas that such training is seen as opportunity for advancement, both within the job and by opening doors to further educational opportunities.
In the instance of English language training at work, the need for communication between workers and their co-workers and supervisors presented a crucial and immediate reason for formal training, as one instructor pointed out. Generally speaking, the immediacy of the need for this type of training is very much present within the manufacturing workplace setting.
Despite the decision to embrace formal learning, all three learners interviewed admitted to feelings of dread prior to entering the classroom, all for the first time in recent years. As one learner admitted,
“I didn’t like the old methods way back when… I thought this would be more of the same.”
Another learner’s concern focused on unknown course content and the uncertainty of her ability to learn formally after many years out of the classroom.