INDIVIDUAL LEARNING ACCOUNTS
As one of the UK's leading providers of IT and
office skills training to individuals, Pitman Training Group has
been closely involved in the evolution of Individual Learning
Accounts (ILAs) since the earliest pilot programmes. Many of the
one hundred and twenty thousand courses delivered in our seventy-four
training centres in England have been part-funded by "starter"
ILAs and we have taken a close interest in the introduction of
the national scheme in recent months.
As more details of the scheme have emerged,
we have expressed our concern both to DfEE officials and to Capita
plc that there was insufficient detail in the rules of the initiative.
As a responsible training provider we worried that this lack of
detail left the scheme open to abuse, which would not be helpful
to either the initiative itself, or the majority of the training
We now understand from your officials that such
abuse has, indeed, been identified and that as a result ministers
now propose to put a "cap" on the value of training
that will in future attract the 80 per cent funding band. We also
understand that it is the Department's intention to publish detailed
guidance to providers.
We warmly welcome the detailed guidance. Indeed,
we provided a copy of our own guidance notes on ILAs to officials
at Moorfoot for comment shortly after the introduction of the
programme and look forward to seeing the official version.
We also fully understand the desire to control
abuse through the introduction of a "cap". We do, however,
urge ministers to give serious consideration to the level of such
a "cap", and the negative effects on the impact of the
ILA initiative of setting that level too low.
The ILA programme rightly directs maximum funding
towards IT training mapped to NVQ levels 1 and 2. The qualifications
contained in the inclusive list provide the essential IT workplace
skills for the majority of individuals and it is essential that
the 80 per cent discount funds the full provision of such training
to encourage maximum take-up and high levels of both completion
To put the funding requirement into perspective,
one of the key qualifications, and one which will be of increasing
importance over the coming years, is the European Computer Driving
Licence (ECDL). The British Computer Society, which operates the
ECDL programme in the UK recommends one-hundred and twenty-five
hours' training to complete the syllabus. Ministers have already
accepted that an hourly rate of between £13.00 and £15.00
is reasonable for high quality IT skills training on schemes such
as UK OnLine.
We hope that individuals seeking to invest in
their own future will continue to aspire to ECDL, and many of
the other qualifications on the schedule. We therefore urge ministers
to set the limit for training funded by the 80 per cent discount
band at no less than the £1750.00 needed for this important
Neither the individual seeking improvement,
nor the training sector as a whole should be penalised for the
abuse of the system by a handful of maverick providers. With a
sensible "cap" which still allows quality skills training
to take place, and a detailed set of guidelines, ILAs can still
be the engine that drives up the UK's IT skills base.
We look forward to hearing the results of your
deliberations. If any of the Pitman Training management team can
help in the consultation process we would be delighted to do so.