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LSC proposes new ILAs


The Learning and Skills Council has made representations to MPs, suggesting that ILAs be reintroduced with adaptations.

Speaking to the Education and Skills Select Committee, Geoff Hall, Director of Learning Programmes at the LSC, said: "ILAs attracted over a million people into LSC colleges and other training providers. It was perhaps the single most successful attempt to attract new learners. The easy access to learning and the reduced cost of fees, appealed to many as a simple way of taking a course and improving their prospects. We want to build on the wide recognition and worth of ILAs. They may have been damaged by recent events but they clearly had a wide following and filled a long recognised need. We believe they can be successfully re-established so long as this is done carefully and cautiously."

Michael Stark, the Council’s Assistant Director, Head of Skills and Workforce Development, added: "There were a number of successful pilot schemes and even ILA variants such as company learning accounts (CLAs) which the LSC can draw on in developing, with ministers, a successor to learning accounts so long as we get the concept and management right from the start. We can cite several local schemes, run by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) and later by the LSC which achieved their objectives, proved to be good value for money and were not open to abuse. There is also a growing body of international experience in this field available to the LSC as it leads research on behalf of the OECD."

The LSC directors told the committee that the Council supports the concept of learning accounts to expand demand for learning by adults and employers, providing a more demand-led system of funding adult skills for employability and competitiveness.

This year the select committee has also heard submissions about the ILAs and what could prelace them from training providers and trades union representatives.

The LSC has identified these criteria:
- The need to be dynamic to build the habit of saving and investing for learning over a sustained period.
- A coherent national framework but with different options to suit learners’ needs. Anyone should be able to open an account but not every account would be subsidised. No single rate of subsidy or cap will be appropriate and local LSC discretion should be available.
- Accounts should encourage investment by at least three parties: the individual, their employer (or groups of employers) and the wider community. Alongside the LSC, this community could include a range of interested partners and may also include tax reliefs.
- Accounts could be held in cash or as vouchers – such as learning miles
- Accounts should be a flexible, enduring mechanism to facilitate funding learning/training. They should integrate easily with other major financial decisions – such as taking out a mortgage or a savings plan – where delivery is typically through banks, building societies and other financial institutions supported by any Government grants or tax credits.
- Learning accounts would work best with near full-cost fees, which would be discounted to draw in targeted groups. The current system offers heavily subsidised fees, with an ILA offering only a small further discount.
- Learning accounts should integrate into wider strategies to implement the PIU report's proposals for a demand-led funding system for adult skills, and for greater employer engagement in workforce development.
- Learning accounts should support local and regional strategies for skills development, as the best of the TEC-based pre-2000 pilots did.
- They should also encourage active employer engagement in choice of training, as they did with the small business schemes.
- The critical relationship between learning accounts and wider workforce development policies will be taken forward in the forthcoming LSC Workforce Development strategy. This will address all the main proposals of the Performance Innovation Unit report, including funding issues. Due for publication in late spring, it will, in turn, inform the PIU follow-up report expected in the autumn.

What do you think are the priorities for a national adult training scheme? What should replace ILAs? Add your comments below.


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