Memorandum from Hairnet (ILA 10)
In order for you to understand the effect of
ILAs and their unanticipated suspension on our business, you should
understand our basic revenue streams. We have two training arms:
Business training and Domestic training.
Business training (on-site training
for companies) did/does not generally make use of ILAs and does
not really come into this debate at all.
Domestic trainingby that we
mean home-visit training delivered to the general adult population
on an individual basis by outreach Hairnet trainers. This side
of the business made extensive use of the ILA Scheme. From January
2001 to October 2001 1,856 Hairnet students gained IT skills with
The Domestic training operates through
a "licence scheme." People over 50 (and talented younger
applicants) selected on strength of CV; then interviewed; then
Police Access cleared; then vouched for by references, are trained
by Hairnet to become trainers. They pay us to join and for their
initial induction training. They pay to use our materials. They
pay us a set fee every month to stay in our network. We support,
monitor and evaluate them. We update their training, for example,
to get them accredited to teach and test ECDL. They benefit from
the association with the Hairnet brand and from our reputation
as decent trainers. Hairnet trainers make all the money from their
training: they do not pass a percentage back to us.
Hairnet was begun in 1997.
Hairnet was accepted as a learning
provider to ILA Scheme in January 2001.
In a word, excellent. It gave adults "learning
currency" to spend as they saw fit. Specifically:
While the financial incentive was
obvious, there was also a huge psychological incentiveolder
learners were pleased that the Government wanted to include them
in the "information age." People felt encouraged to
better their skills and acquire new ones. People "approved"
of the DfES's commitment to lifelong learning for people of all
ages and backgrounds.
ILAs enabled Hairnet to get 1-2-1,
home-visit IT training to those who for physical, psychological,
geographical, social or economic reasons would not have been able
to have IT training.
90 per cent of those Hairnet students
who used ILAs did more learning than they would have done without
We cannot tell you with great accuracy
what percentage of students would never have learnt if they had
not had an ILA because this was not data we ever thought to collate.
We would, having studied our records which include feedback from
each students about their training, estimate that the figure could
be as high as 70 per cent.
OF ILA SCHEME
Hairnet head office managed all ILA transactions.
Hairnet trainers would send their students' signed ILA enrolment
forms to us and we would put the details through the ILA website.
We would then pay "back" the trainer for the training.
Pre collapse of the scheme, ILA centre staff generally helpful
and efficient. Website for processing numbers easy to use. We
had one member of office staff dedicated to the processing of
23 October 2001December 7 set as end date
We increased staff hours so that
all outstanding ILA registrations would be complete by start December.
ILA website slows down dramaticallytaking
some 30-40 minutes to process just one claim (which previously
took 2/3 minutes).
ILA website crashes often and is
therefore completely out of action.
24 November 2001December 7 deadline abandoned
We have 392 enrolments we were unable
to process by the original 7 December deadline, which equates
to about £25,000 of lost training.
This equates to over £13,000
of training already or since delivered.
Losses incurred directly by Hairnet
22 January 2002
We still have not been paid over
£13,000 for training delivered up to 23 November.
The above losses are incurred directly
by Hairnet trainers, who have long since actually delivered the
training and are out of pocket.
3. NET EFFECT
OF ILA SCHEME
1. January 200270 per cent down on
student enrolments from September 2001.
2. Note that January is usually a very good
month in the training business, which is seasonal; it has the
impetus of back to school/start of the new year feelings.
1. January 2002Hairnet recruitment
of new trainers, which take place every month, down 20 per cent
in January and 50 per cent February onwards.
2. Over the last year, 70 per cent of those
joining Hairnet as a new trainer used ILAs to fund their induction
3. Over the last year, 95 per cent of established
Hairnet trainers who chose to do their ECDL training did so using
an ILA to cover some of the costs.
(a) Hairnet head office Managing lack of
news October/November 2001
We have no quarrel with a non-functioning
system being closed down and cleaned up. But news about end dates,
changed end dates, new schemes, monies owed is so lacking, or
so unclear, as to make it useless. Because we were trying to feed
back news to the rest of our network, who were all anxious and
who all lost money. It put a huge strain on our head office staff.
To the end of December 2001 we estimate
managing the news and non-news surrounding the ILA Debacle cost
us 3.5 months of staff time.
5. PLANING AHEADIMPOSSIBLE
To October 2001, ILAs increased our
annual turnover by about 40 per cent from same period in 2000.
We predicted that increase would rise again in 2002 inflating
our turnover even further. Three years worth of business plans
were built around predictions made on past performance and relying
on market conditions resulting from ILAs. These plans are now
The situation would be much more
manageable if we knew when and how the much talked aboutbut
hitherto fantasysuccessor scheme is to be introduced. The
lack of plan with dates and timetable compounds the tension and
difficulty for training businesses. The term "cast iron"
(as in the oft-repeated "cast-iron" promise given by
DfES spokespersons) is not recognised by most spreadsheet applications.
Given these facts, it is absolutely
infuriating and more than that insulting to be told that what
has happened and what is not happening to our balance sheets is
nothing to do with the Government but wholly our responsibility
as learning providers who decided to join the Scheme.
6. DAMAGE: CONFIDENCE,
ILAs changed ideas about the value
of IT training. Before ILAs, adult learners choosing Hairnet training
knew that home-visit 1-2-1 training would have a cost that exceeded
that of learning at local college's subsidised classes. Learners
made that choice. ILAs distorted the price issue because 10 hours
training in your own home could actually cost as little as £25.
The public's perception of value has therefore been distorted
and in that regard Hairnet is worse off than before ILAs, although
providing a much needed service!
The reputation of IT learning providers
has suffered: because the ILA story is so complicated and the
general public is under the impression that IT trainers are a
motley bunch, fraudulent and untrustworthy. While DfES will say
it has sent letters to all ILA holders explaining the situation,
we still took calls from people who thought we had somehow stolen
their money for learning grants.
As a rather different IT training
company whose business is to take training to people and places
others can't reach, we have lost some faith in the Government's
(1) genuine commitment to lifelong learning and (2) ability to
actually deliver, (3) ability to stick to its promises. Working
with Government to reach Government objectives should not be a
As a small business, and as entrepreneurs,
we have lost some faith in the Government's commitment to stimulating
and supporting home-grown business. We don't expect Government
handouts, but neither do we expect to be duped when working with
Hairnet was founded and is fronted by Emma Solomon
(31) and Caroline Lambie (28). Emma and Caroline manage all aspects
of the company but their main focus is on the development and
evolution of the training services.
Emma studied modern languages at Corpus Christi,
Oxford and previously worked as an editor in Madrid and as a copywriter
for a web design agency in London.
Caroline studied Art History at the Courtauld
Institute of Art and previously worked with a web design agency
and as the part time Internet editor for Dazed & Confused
Both Emma and Caroline have also been freelance
trainers for various IT training companies and been involved with
the development of course materials.
The two began working together in 1995 and built
websites for many Arts and Heritage organisations. They also continued
to teach IT, in particular in a local college, and wrote materials
and courses together. The idea for Hairnet was born in May 1997
when Emma and Caroline realised that many older people wanted
to "catch up" with IT and that IT training and associated
services focused on this niche market could become a popular and
Five years later, both continue to interview
and train all Hairnet trainers and are actively involved with
the management of the trainer network believing that their personal
participation and leadership is key to maintaining high standards
and stimulating energy and creativity.
As key staff members they are also engaged in
raising the profile of the company, speaking at lectures and seminars,
running workshops, giving press interviews and writing for other
publications and organisations.
Hairnet offices are also staffed by Peter Head,
Gill Adams and Shirley Andersonall over 50 themselves.
Peter manages the network of Hairnet trainers; Gill manages publicity
and builds public awareness of Hairnet within sectors such as
local government, and Shirley contributes to the website as well
as undertaking research activities.