PROPOSAL FOR INTERIM FUNDED TRAINING PROGRAMME
THE ASSOCIATION OF COMPUTER TRAINERS
The Association of Computer Trainers (ACT) represents
the leaders of the UK IT training industry. Its members conform
to the highest standards of quality, learner support and learning
materials. To qualify for membership, applicants must meet the
Each member must have a minimum of
twenty-five (25) operational training centres.
Each member must have training centres
operating in a minimum of four Government Office/RDA regions.
Each member's training centres must
have at least one nationally recognised independent IT Training
or IT Testing accreditation eg: ECDL, MOUS, OCR, BTEC.
Each member's principal activities
are training centre-based and must have a minimum of five years'
track record in the training industry.
Together, the members of ACT operate almost
200 IT training centres, employ 800 training and learning support
staff, and train over 80,000 individuals each year.
The centres are experienced in the delivery
of government-funded training, having played major roles in the
delivery of training under programmes such as:
Work Based Training for Adults.
UK OnLine (ICT for Employability).
Individual Learning Accounts.
The Association is currently working on the
design of an accreditation process to allow the extension of full
or associate membership to those independent training providers
who meet the rigorous standards met by the Associations founding
members. This will then allow the introduction of a self-regulatory
mechanism for the industry as a whole.
The breakdown of the Individual Learning Account
initiative in October/November 2001 has left a vacuum in the funded
training provision for the individual seeking life-changing skills.
Not since the introduction of Vocational Training Relief in 1992
has the individual been denied funding in support of his or her
own commitment to learning.
The current situation satisfies none of the
Learners are deprived of much-needed
help towards obtaining the skills needed to take them forward
in the workplace.
Learning providers are threatened
by the current vacuum as their potential clients await the outcome
of the government's promised re-introduction of an "ILA-style"
programme at some ill-defined time in the medium term future.
Providers are also being damaged by the wrongful implication that
they have behaved improperly over ILAs.
Government is unable to deliver its
promised commitment to lifelong learning and faces continued criticism
until a replacement programme is put in place.
The purpose of the following proposal by the
Association is to put forward an interim funding regime, which
has a number of clearly defined benefits to all the interested
It will make available once more
funded learning for individuals seeking career opportunities currently
denied them by inadequate skills in a key sector.
It will focus on clear, targeted
groups within the community that are suffering most by the cancellation
of the ILA programme.
It will re-establish momentum in
the crucial IT training sector, that is so important to future
well being of the UK economy.
It will have the necessary safeguards
for the use of public money that were lacking in the ILA scheme.
It will enable government to demonstrate
clearly to its critics that it understands the needs of both learners
and providers, and is putting in place a realistic interim programme.
The proposed programme will be designed to reach
individuals within the community who lack fundamental Information
and Communications Technology (ICT) skills, or whose ICT skills
levels are insufficient to make them attractive to potential employers.
The objective is to create increased employability for key sectors
within the community.
Whilst very different in a number of key features,
the proposed programme draws heavily on the experience of the
IT training sector in the delivery of the DfEE's ICT for Employability
programme (later re-named UK OnLine) in 2000-01. This was a similarly
targeted programme, providing appropriate, high-quality learning
across many sectors, with an inexpensive, but effective regulatory
regime. ACT believes such a programme could provide a swift and
workable solution to the current difficulties.
All parties agree that the problems associated
with the ILA programme stem mainly from the failurefor
laudable reasons of extended choiceto impose quality thresholds
on training providers (and others) able to draw down funding under
ACT has drawn up clear membership criteria for
current and future members that ensure that training centres so
approved meet the highest standards of quality and probity. ACT
urges government to accept ACT membership as sufficient accreditation
for involvement in this and future programmes. ACT will shortly
produce a paper for government outlining its plans for self-regulation
within the IT training industry.
For those providers that choose not, at this
stage, to become members of ACT, it is proposed that government
rely on Employment Service Approved Provider Status or the Adult
Learning Inspectorate as a clear indication that the provider
has successfully passed a rigorous inspection process.
Other accreditation may be added in due course.
This proposal concentrates on ACT members' ability
to deliver the programme. ACT accepts that other providers could,
and should, be involved once the necessary accreditation is determined.
The target groups are those most in need of
such skills to overcome their current disadvantage in the job
market. These groups would include:
Those in receipt of Job Seekers'
Those in receipt of Income Support.
Those on Incapacity Benefit.
The adult dependants of the above
Returners looking to re-enter the
job market after a gap of more than three years.
Other disadvantaged groups that may
be especially targeted to meet government objectives on employability.
The providers of learning working on this programme
cannot operate in isolation. It will be necessary to work closely
with those involved in the management of resources and opportunities
for these disadvantaged groups. Relationships will need to be
in place with bodies such as:
Learning & Skills Councils.
Lifelong Learning Partnerships.
Members of ACT already have close working relationships
with the above throughout the United Kingdom.
However, to reach out to these groups will require
a more pro-active approach. Providers will need to use their professional
marketing skills and resources to create awareness of the learning
Members of ACT have extensive marketing resources
that have already been applied successfully to take government-funded
programmes to target groups. This was no better illustrated than
in the DfEE's UK OnLine programme in 2000-01.
This programme, ultimately very successful,
was greatly assisted by the ability of the best of the private
sector learning providers to make contact with the target groups
through its pro-active marketing activity. As a result, ACT members
not only successfully completed their UK OnLine contracts well
within the prescribed period, but were invited to take up supplementary
contracts to help DfEE overcome the inability of other contracted
providersmainly in the FE sectorwho lacked the necessary
ACT members delivered more learning under the
UK OnLine programme than any other contractors.
All ACT members' training centres are in locations
easily accessed by the general public and, in particular, by members
of the targeted disadvantaged groups. All centres are in town
or city-centre locations, close to public transport and shopping.
A number are located in public buildings such as libraries.
The programme will deliver 30 hours of high-quality
ICT training to the learner, designed to provide the individual
with the specific ICT skills to improve their employability. The
course content will be agreed with the learner in the form of
a Personal Training Plan. This will follow a Training Needs Analysis,
conducted by the provider and designed to assess the learners'
current skills level. The plan will then map the skills set needed
to meet the requirements of the job market.
The foundation ICT skills considered essential
for employability would include:
Ability to use the Windows platform.
Potential trainees will be invited to visit
the Training Centre for an initial half-hour assessment following
which a full induction session can take place. This session would
involve a taster session, providing hands-on experience on a PC
with an experienced trainer, using the actual training programme
materials. At the end of the induction, an outline individual
training plan will be agreed with the trainee. The induction should
last one to two hours, after which the trainee should be able
to commence their chosen training.
The tailored programmes would deliver 30 hours'
learning on the topics listed above to the standard appropriate
to the prior understanding of the learner. The course material
would map to the syllabus of the following recognised qualifications:
Or their agreed equivalents.
ACT Training Centres will operate the programme
on a Tutor to Trainee ratio of at least 1:8. Trainees assessed
as needing increased levels of support following their basic skills
assessment will be given closer attention, including 1:1 support
The successful UK Online programme recognised
the worth of high-quality ICT training at a rate of up to £500.00
for 30 hours' training, based on successful completion of the
study programme and gaining a relevant qualification. ACT believes
that this figure reflects the true value of the learning experience
and the costs to providers of delivering a quality training programme,
tailored to individual trainee needs.
ACT believes it is important that the payment
structure includes (as part of the £500.00 maximum entitlement)
a payment for completion, thus avoiding some of the potential
The validation of an individual's entitlement
to enter the scheme is, necessarily, an issue that will exercise
government. If the categories proposed are accepted, most will
have a clear, identifying document as part of their claim for
benefit that can be noted by the provider against some other form
of identification. Where such a document is not commonly available,
a simple but effective process will need to be drawn up in consultation
with all parties.
The lack of an on-going audit process was a
factor in the abuse of the ILA programme. The ability to fund
a major audit team by DfES is thought unlikely. However, ACT believe
that an audit process is vital to give confidence to government
that the scheme is working effectively and without problem, and
that such a process will help restore the image of the training
ACT is, therefore, prepared to fund a random
audit of providers under the proposed scheme. The audits would
be carried out on the instructions of the DfES by a prominent
firm of Chartered Accountants. The timing, scope and chosen providers
in such a process would be determined entirely by the DfES, subject
to prior agreement on the budget.
ACT firmly believe the following:
There is a pressing need on behalf
of learners, providers and government for an interim scheme to
remove the uncertainty, restore confidence, and allow learners
to once again have access to life-changing skills.
The proposed programme is largely
proven through the ICT for Employability initiative.
The proposed programme is capable
of early launch, stable management and regulated use of public
Such a scheme may provide pointers
to the design and scope of a successor programme to ILAs.
We welcome the opportunity to present our proposals
Association of Computer Trainers