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Training and Development Policy

Individual Learning Account Pilot Initiative

working woman

A Learning Tool for the 21st Century

As workers take more control over their own career destiny, training and development are becoming more important in recruiting and retention...

...workers in all occupations want to maintain their skills, knowledge, and capacity to make their own career choices. Employers eager to attract and hold top talent will use workforce learning opportunities more strategically to build a stable workforce of high-capability employees.

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Trends Watch:
The Forces That Shape Workplace Performance and Improvement


Today, it is widely recognized that the rapid growth of technology, increased complexity of the work environment, and competition for qualified people has greatly impacted how organizations approach recruitment and retention of staff. The Federal Government is placing greater emphasis on training and development tools as investments to ensure their workforce is adequately prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) are a 21st Century learning tool that provide a flexible and innovative approach to developing today's workforce and building a new generation of workers.

ILAs were piloted in the Federal Government to determine their potential and value as a workforce development tool for Federal employees. Agencies participating in the ILA pilot generally felt that ILAs can add value and have excellent potential for use in the Federal Government as typified by the following comment.

"ILAs are an important recruitment and retention tool that the Federal Government needs in order to compete with private industry. More importantly, it is a powerful tool for developing a workforce that is intellectually more flexible and capable of adapting to meet and keep up with the changing work environment."

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The Federal Training Technology Task Force was established January 12, 1999 by Executive Order 13111, "Using Technology to Improve Training Opportunities for Federal Government Employees." The Task Force was charged with developing a policy to "make effective use of technology to improve training opportunities for Federal Government employees." One of the specific tasks in the Executive Order to be addressed by the Task Force was to:

"Develop options and recommendations for establishing a Federal Individual Training Account for each Federal worker for training relevant to his or her Federal employment. To the extent permitted by law, such accounts may be established with the funds allocated to the agency for employee training. Approval for training would be within the discretion of the individual employee's manager."

A Task Force Subgroup explored options for the establishment of Individual Training Accounts (ITAs). Although ITAs appeared to hold great promise for developing the workforce, the Subgroup decided that there needed to be more empirical data to determine the scope and practicality of using ITAs in the Federal Government. They recommended that the goals of the proposed Individual Training Account initiative should be broadened to support not only training opportunities but continuous learning development. Therefore, the Subgroup renamed Individual Training Accounts as Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) and defined them as:

A base amount of resources expressed in terms of dollars or hours or both that are set aside for an individual employee to use for his or her learning and development.

In addition, the Subgroup recommended that ILAs be piloted in agencies to determine the effectiveness of ILAs in the Government.

OPM launched the ILA Pilot initiative in December 1999. Agencies were invited to participate in the pilot and OPM provided guidance to assist in implementation. Thirteen agencies accepted the invitation and volunteered for 17 pilots (some agencies chose to pilot multiple ILA plans). The pilots ranged from including all employees in the agency to targeting employees by specific occupations, grade levels, skill needs, and organization components. The ILA pilot resources included dollars, official time, employee time, or a combination of both.

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Individual Learning Account Pilot Initiative
Findings and Recommendations


Agencies are enthusiastic about this new development tool. Anecdotal feedback from employees and management indicate that ILAs provide a different and advantageous approach to training and development.

"...people in our branch are doing some wonderful stuff with their ILA money and then sharing it and handouts weekly in our team meetings. We are all learning a lot. We've had several presentations/discussions on financial management; web page design/development; communication courses; various conferences people attended...All of it is lots of fun and adds so much life to work!!"

"The results of our pilot effort lead us to recommend that an ILA-type program should not only continue, but be made available to a greater audience as well."

"The pilot program raised awareness among employees about the different continuous learning activities available to them. It demonstrated to employees the agency's commitment to continuous learning. Also, it enabled our agency's ILA pilot component to focus on their employees."

The pilot demonstrated that ILAs are a feasible and practical approach to the 21st Century workforce needs of the Federal Government because they:

  • are readily adaptable to the development needs of all employee grade and skill levels;
  • can be targeted to meet specific competency gaps and workforce development needs;
  • effectively use official time, employee time, dollars or combinations of the three as a resource; and
  • foster shared accountability between the organization and the employee.

The agencies overwhelmingly recommended the implementation of ILAs and continued OPM guidance and leadership in this effort.OPM endorses these recommendations.

Specifically the Recommendations are:

  • Implement ILAs Governmentwide;
  • Develop guidance for implementation of ILAs, in collaboration with ILA pilot agencies; and
  • Promote the use of ILAs and support the effort with consultation and networking.

The following report presents information on the results of the ILA Pilot Initiative.

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