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ILAs – necessary and much missed


"The training world has taken a very sad step backwards!" was how one TrainingZONE member reacted to the close of the Individual Learning Accounts. The Individual Learning Account Scheme has been one of the biggest issues in training in England in the past year, and the issue is still alive, with the ongoing autopsy by select committee and anticipations of new training schemes to be announced in the next Budget.

When the closure of the scheme was announced, we asked TrainingZONE's members - professionals from right across the sector - what they made of the situation. The responses, from 324 members, indicated a mixture of approval of the principle of the ILAs with some seasoned professionals' lack of surprise at its failings. We put this question to TrainingZONE members:

On 24 October, the government announced it was scrapping its flagship Individual Learning Accounts scheme on 7 December. Was the project:

The responses were:

  • 27 % (87) said: A good idea, but it was never going to reach the right people

  • 42% (137) said: A great idea - why aren't they replacing it with something similar?

  • 17% (55) said: Doomed from the start - there were no safeguards against fraud

  • 14% (45) said: Badly thought out, there are better ways to attract people to formal learning

  • Additional comments included:

    Just as people were getting used to an opportunity for updating/acquiring new skills, it was withdrawn. I suspect that if people cannot pay for their own training they probably won't bother.

    Any new form of ILA should encourage the employer to play an active role in developing the skills of their existing workforce.

    I knew the scheme was doomed from the moment a 16-year-old lad knocked at my door trying to sell me a computer course.

    There is a simple solution: require providers to be accredited by an independent body like the Institute of IT Training. (Or either by IITT or by LearnDirect.)

    I can't help but wonder if ILAs were really pulled because they were £63m over budget.

    I relied on the funding from ILA to help with my Open University fees - it is the only way I could have afforded to do it. I can't believe there weren't measures they could introduce to get rid of the sharks rather than scrap it altogether.

    A belief that it is absolutely necessary to encourage adults in the UK into the habit of training has been a feature of nearly all of the comments we have had, but many training providers among our membership recognised that more security and accreditation were required. Experienced people in the industry feel that training professionals should have played a bigger part in the establishment of the scheme. And in TrainingZONE's view it is training providers who have borne the brunt of the scheme's failure, through unpaid fees, unfulfilled business plans and a badly distorted market. was launched in May 1998, targeted at the UK training and HR community. The extensive website has rapidly established itself as the most heavily used web service for training and HR professionals in the country with around 30,000 registered members (May 2001) creating 200,000 a month.

    We have reported on the expected replacements, the slump in training since the scheme ended, the Learning and Skills Council's recommendations, the view from the larger training providers, and web resources including arrangements for consultation, questions in parliament, the proceedings of the education committee, and the DfES's consultation procedure on replacing the scheme.

    Consultation is underway, so what's your view? What form should future adult learning initiatives take? What can be done to institute more of a learning culture? Post your comments below.


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