Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence



  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 sector.

  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 and qualification.

  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 programme.

  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.

James O'Brien

Managing Director

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