How PLA Is Helping Today’s Workforce

And if they know something about it, they still may have questions.

Simply put, PLA is a method of evaluating students’ skills gained outside of a traditional classroom setting and awarding credit for any college-level learning they demonstrate.

College-level learning can come from a variety of experiences such as previous employment, military service, volunteer activities and online open-source courses. Many colleges and universities with large adult student populations have PLA services available, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, or CAEL, also operates a national online PLA service called LearningCounts. The four common methods of receiving these credits are:

• Having students create portfolios that give proof of learning acquired outside of a classroom.

• Receiving college credit recommendations from the National College Credit Recommendation Service or the American Council on Education.

• Taking standardized exams administered by nonprofit and private education organizations, such as the CLEP exams offered by the College Board or the UExcel exams offered by Excelsior College.

• Utilizing tests and evaluations that are given by individual higher education institutions.

PLA is particularly useful for adults who have some previous college experience, are seeking a way to go back to college and want to save time and money while completing their studies. According to CAEL, students who use PLA credits complete their degrees two to 10 months faster than undergraduates who do not go through PLA. Students who earn PLA credits also save from $800 to $12,000 in tuition on average, and are two times more likely to graduate.

PLA is also an important resource for employers looking to save money on learning and training expenses. Industrywide coalitions such as the Energy Providers Coalition for Education and the National Advisory Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning provide PLA credit options to workers on the path to their degrees. In addition to Verizon, other Fortune 500 companies such as McDonald’s allow employees to seek PLA credits as part of their tuition assistance programs.

“In an industry where building a leadership pipeline is imperative, it is essential to create a strategy that promotes workforce education to ensure success and advancement for both the business and the employee,” said Lisa Schumacher, director of education strategies at McDonald’s Corp. “McDonald’s education vision is to create the opportunity for all employees to advance their learning, and help them find the most efficient and affordable path to a degree.”