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Training and Development Policy

Individual Learning Accounts

Guidance for Implementing Pilot Projects

OPM Federal ILA Pilot Initiative Guidelines



A.  Task Force findings.
B.  Task Force recommendations.


A.  Definition of Federal individual learning account.
B.  Objectives of agency individual learning account pilots.
C.  Eligibility for individual learning accounts.
D.  Some suggestions and examples for individual learning account pilots.
E.  Issues that need resolution.



A.  ILA pilot project designs.
B.  ILA pilot implementation.
C.  ILA pilot project evaluations.

Table: Timetable for initial pilots and their evaluation.

D.  OPM contact.



1.  Sample format for reporting pilot designs to OPM.
2.  Existing Title 5 Flexibilities and Allowable Training Expenses.

Individual Learning Accounts:
Guidance for Implementing Pilot Projects


President Clinton's January 12, 1999,    Executive Order No. 13111, "Using Technology to Improve Training Opportunities for Federal Government Employees," established the Presidential Task Force on Federal Learning Technology, a task force to explore how Federal training programs, initiatives, and policies can better support lifelong learning through the use of learning technology. The Task Force consists of heads of Federal departments and agencies and their representatives.

The Executive Order requires the Task Force to complete several tasks within specific time frames. These tasks included a requirement 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. Options and recommendations shall be reported no later than six (6) months from the date of this order."

To meet this charge, the Task Force created a workgroup, which researched current ILA use in the public, and private sectors, explored issues related to implementing ILAs in the Federal Government, and prepared recommendations that the Task Force forwarded to the President on July 12, 1999.

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A.  Task Force findings.

The Task Force found that Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) are a relatively new concept, and there are not many examples of programs with a long track record. The programs reviewed by the Task Force were all in early implementation stages, in the private and public sectors. In these programs, both the employee and the employer, and sometimes the state, contribute money to a bank or company account in the employee's name, which the employee may use for education and training. Before dispersing funds from an account, a bank or a company official makes sure that the money will be used for its intended purpose. Other characteristics of the programs studied included:

  • Each establishes a base amount of funding.
  • Each is expressed in dollars.
  • Each establishes a set aside for the use of a specific individual.
  • Each is designed for the purpose of learning and development.

These ILAs differ from traditional tuition assistance and reimbursement programs in which the employer pays, or reimburses an employee, for the expenses of education, in whole or in part. In an ILA program, the employee uses the account as he or she wishes for learning and education, within the parameters for which the account is established.

The Task Force also found that some Federal agencies already have ILA-like arrangements with employees. For example, in some agencies, a specific amount of money is set aside for training each individual employee. The funds pay, or reimburse the employee, in whole or in part, for training and education related to his or her official duties. The employee may, or may not, contribute personal time and money to this training.

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B.  Task Force recommendations

The Task Force determined that ILAs might be a positive addition to an agency's toolbox of approaches to meet employee training needs and to support lifelong learning. It felt Federal agencies should experiment with using ILAs and recommended that agencies conduct pilots.

The Task Force also recommended that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) manage the ILA pilot initiative, develop guidelines for implementation, analyze results of agency pilots and publish a report on lessons learned.


A.  Definition of Federal individual learning accounts

While all the ILA programs reviewed by the Task Force are funded in terms of dollars, the group concluded that limiting the definition of ILAs to dollar accounts would be too restrictive for Federal pilots. The Task Force agreed that for the Federal pilots, an ILA is 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. Accounts may be used to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities that directly relate to the employee's official duties. ILAs are not limited to programs delivered by learning technology.

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B.  Objectives of agency individual learning account pilots.

An ILA is a strategy or tool that complements current agency training activities. The objectives of agency ILA pilots include, but are not limited to:

  • Improving organizational performance and meeting specific agency performance goals.
  • Increasing employee access to and use of emerging learning technology.
  • Supporting employee efforts to acquire skills and learning needed to succeed in specific occupations and professions.
  • Providing employees with flexible learning opportunities, and putting the responsibility for learning in the hands of the learner.
  • Improving Federal employee performance, increasing productivity, and improving customer service skills.
  • Supporting employee lifelong learning.
  • Determining the scope and practicality of ILAs.
  • Identifying legal and regulatory constraints to effective implementation of ILAs.

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C.  Eligibility for individual learning accounts.

With the exception of Schedule C appointees and uniform personnel in the U.S. Department of Defense, an agency may establish ILA pilots that include any executive branch Federal employee, including career, career conditional, part time, temporary, or excepted service employee in professional, technical, clerical, administrative, or management positions.

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D.  Some suggestions and examples for individual learning account pilots.

Pilots may be instituted to meet general or specific agency needs. For example,

  • Targeted pilots might establish accounts used to develop specific skills that employees need throughout the agency, i.e., technology skills or leadership skills.
  • A special purpose pilot could establish accounts for employees in low skill, low paying jobs in order to build competencies and improve their competitiveness in the Federal labor pool.
  • A pilot could establish learning accounts for the specific purpose of giving employees more access to learning technology, and to increase their use of it.
  • A pilot could be limited to employees in a specific office or program area, i.e., the employees in the administrative support function in a division.
  • Widespread, universal pilots could offer learning accounts to any agency employee

Below are some possible examples of Federal ILAs. These examples are meant for illustrative purposes only.

  • An agency could set aside a designated sum of money annually for education that meets learning needs identified in employees' competency-based individual development plans.
  • An agency could give employees a designated amount of official time to dedicate to learning activities related to improving their performance, such as a specific number of hours each month.
  • An agency could establish learning accounts that provide employee's time for Internet courses or developmental assignments, such as rotational assignments, intergovernmental assignments, details to other agencies, and individual learning assignments.
  • An agency could use official time to provide employees time for increased access to subject matter experts and for coaching and mentoring.
  • An agency could establish accounts for employees needing professional credentials, and cover some or all of the costs of job-related training to prepare for exams and also provide employees a designated amount of time to prepare for exams.
  • An agency could also institute a development program that, in addition to orientation, collateral assignments, and development assignments, provides each participant a sum of money for academic education related to the program.

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Issues that need resolution

As agencies identify possible pilots, they should consider issues such as equity and union involvement in pilot development and implementation. They also need to track and be able to report to OPM any issues associated with the administration and funding of the pilots.

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A.  ILA pilot project designs

Agency pilot plans should be submitted to OPM in order for OPM to track pilot numbers and types and prepare for assessment of this Governmentwide initiative. Agencies wishing to experiment with ILAs should submit their plans by January 14, 2000. Designs for agency pilots should include, but are not limited to:

  • Major purpose of the pilot, including results intended, performance objectives, and measures for success.
  • A plan for collective bargaining unit involvement in pilot design and implementation.
  • Scope of pilot, including participating agency program(s), numbers and kinds of employees covered, funds or time agency contributes, expectations about employee contributions, etc.
  • Pilot administration, including how set-asides of dollars and official time will be handled, how equal access will be assured, how employee reaction will be assessed, etc.

Send plans of pilot projects to Director, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Room 5305, 1900 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20415.

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B.  ILA pilot implementation

Agency pilot programs should begin no later than March 15, 2000.

However, in some cases, agencies may wish to initiate pilots after March 15. Additional pilots are encouraged, those agencies should submit plans as indicated above and submit preliminary evaluation results no later than six months after the launch date.

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C.  ILA pilot project evaluations.

Preliminary evaluations of agency pilots are due to OPM by September 30, 2000. Evaluations should include:

  • A brief description of the pilot, its intended purpose, how the pilot was implemented, and the measures established to determine its success.
  • An assessment of pilot results, that is, how well the pilot accomplished its intended purpose, met established performance measures, and contributed to a positive change in workforce performance.
  • A description of numbers and types of employees covered; staff time dedicated to the pilot; number of employees who participated; types and kinds of learning activities pursued by employees; agency contributions in money and official time; and employees' contributions in money and personal time.
  • A summary of employees' reactions to the pilot, including feedback from participating employees, managers and supervisors and others involved.
  • A description of barriers encountered in implementing ILA pilots.
  • Agency recommendations for further program, agency and Governmentwide actions.

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Timetables for Initial Pilots
and Their Evaluation

Submit proposals to OPM by January 14, 2000.

Begin pilot programs no later than March 15, 2000.

Submit preliminary evaluations to OPM by September 30, 2000.

Should an agency launch a pilot after March 15, 2000, it should submit preliminary evaluations no later than six months after the launch date.

PM will analyze pilots and issue guidance by March 2001.

D.  Questions about establishing and implementing ILA pilots

Questions about establishing and implementing ILA pilots should be directed to LaVeen Ponds at OPM's Office of Human Resource Development, 202-606-1394.

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Sample Format for Reporting Pilot Designs to OPM

Identifying information:
  1. Agency name, address.
  2. Point of contact's name, street address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address.
Pilot description:
  1. Major purpose of pilot - include results pilot intended to achieve and performance indicators for measuring success.
  2. Plan for collective bargaining unit(s) involvement in design of pilot.
  3. Scope of pilot - include agency program designation, employees to be covered, what amount of funds or time does the agency contribute, what amount of funds or time does the employee contribute, etc.
  4. Administration of pilot - include how will set-asides of dollars and hours be handled, how equal access will be assured, how employee reaction will be assessed, etc.

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Existing Title 5 Flexibilities and Allowable Training



Agencies may provide employees any training or education that improves their performance or the performance of the organization and assists in achieving the agency's mission and performance goals. [5 U.S.C. §4101]

An agency may select and assign an employee to academic degree training and provide employees effective education and training in compliance with 5 U.S.C. 4107.  Merit systems principles apply to selecting candidates for academic degree training.  (5 U.S.C. §4107; Homeland Security Act 2000 section 1331; Public Law 107-296 section 1331 Academic Training)

Agencies may share the costs of training and education with employees and may reimburse employees for all or part of the costs of successfully completed training and education. [5 U.S.C. §4109]

Agencies may procure and pay for training or education from the source that best meets their needs with no distinction made between Government and non-Government sources. [5 U.S.C. §4109]

Agencies can determine when continued service agreements are necessary to protect the Government's investment and may apply these agreements to Government or to non-Government training. [5 U.S.C. §4108]

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Tuition and matriculation fees, including fees for online courses.

Library and laboratory services, including fees for online services and databases.

Purchase or rental of books, materials, and supplies, including computers, software, CD ROMS and electronic learning material, including adaptive equipment for persons with disabilities.

Services or facilities directly related to training employees, including readers for the blind, tutoring, counseling directly related to enrollment in learning activities, and examinations to determine level of proficiency and level of training needed.

Travel and expenses, including parking fees and costs for attending training that takes place outside the employee's duty station.

Membership fees if the fee is a necessary cost directly related to he training itself or if payment of the fee is a condition precedent to admission to training.

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