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Government to push for Individual Learning Accounts in SMEs, but who pays?


What is the aim of Individual Learning Accounts? To encourage those not actively engaged in formal learning to participate, or to take the place of company training budgets?

That's the question TrainingZONE is asking, after the latest announcement from Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, which seems to send out confusing messages as to the aim of this scheme. The government's plan is to throw yet more money at a scheme to encourage training, but by doing so, it seems to be suggesting that companies use Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) as a replacement for existing training funds. All well and good for small businesses, it could be argued, but it does beg the question as to how these accounts are being targeted.

Under this latest scheme, small firms employing 25 people or less will receive £500 cash bonuses to spend on additional training and development for encouraging three-quarters of their employees to open Individual Learning Accounts.

Blunkett is keen to push the ILAs on all fronts at work: "I want Individual Learning Accounts to be as common as supermarket loyalty cards. Small firm owner managers will also be encouraged to use the tax reliefs available for employers who contribute to the cost of learning purchased by their employee through an Individual Learning Account. A third of a million people have opened accounts and the Government’s target is for a million by 2002." A new tax relief has been introduced to support Individual Learning Accounts where the employer may wish to contribute to learning that is not work-related but is within the Individual Learning Account definitions of eligible learning.

TrainingZONE says:The government is understandably keen to encourage training participation in small firms, who may be unable to fund or spare the time for employees to undertake training away from the office. However, Individual Learning Accounts require an individual to contribute £25 of their own money. How, then, to persuade employees that making this contribution is of potential value to both them and the company?


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