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No quick fix for training firms hit by ILA collapse

Bill Goodwin and James Rogers
Prospects for an early replacement for the Government's ill-fated Individual Learning Account (ILA) scheme faded this week, after the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) embarked on an informal consultation process that will last until at least April.

The Government abandoned the £260m IT training scheme in December after evidence emerged that bogus training companies had defrauded account holders by exploiting security weaknesses in the ILA Web site.

The delay in creating a successor to the scheme is likely to cause further misery for legitimate IT training companies, which have warned that thousands of jobs could be at risk unless the Government moves quickly to replace the ILA programme.

The DfES said the results of its consultation, which begins this month with questionnaires being sent to 8,000 training companies and telephone interviews with 400 others, will not be published until April.

Training providers are already calling for the Government to tighten up the security in any new skills initiative.

James O'Brien, operations director at Pitman Training, said any new ILA programme should make use of existing accreditation schemes for training companies. "The message is 'make it secure but keep it simple'," he said.

Bert Clough, senior policy adviser at the Trades Union Congress, also called for greater regulation of training providers. "There also needs to be some regulation of the training providers so that anyone dealing with a provider knows that the courses will be of a certain minimum standard," he said.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which promoted the original ILA scheme to its members, told MPs last week that learning providers should meet a quality threshold. "This would protect the good training providers from being undermined by the poor and criminal providers, and the public purse from fraud," it said.

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