The Federal Training Technology Task Force, in its charge to explore how Federal training programs, initiatives, and policies could better support continuous learning through the use of technology, created a subgroup to explore options for the establishment of Individual Training Accounts (ITAs).The Subgroup found from their research that ITAs might be a positive addition to an agency's toolkit of approaches for addressing the training needs of its workforce. However, the Subgroup concluded that there was a need for more empirical data to determine the scope and practicality of using ITAs in the Federal Government. The Subgroup recommended that ITAs be renamed and redefined as Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs), and be piloted in the Federal Government to determine their feasibility and practicality for use Governmentwide.
The Task Force Subgroup recognized the likely potential of ILAs in improving the development opportunities of Federal employees. The Subgroup found that the use of ITAs was an emerging workforce development tool in the private sector. They reviewed examples of existing ITA models in the Pennsylvania State government and foreign governments such as the United Kingdom. Federal ITA-like programs were also investigated. Yet, the limited data available about ILAs was not sufficient to conclusively assess the value added by this approach. Consequently, the Task Force recommended that ILAs be piloted in the Government.
Following the approval of the Task Force recommendation, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) invited agencies, including field and regional offices, to participate in the ILA pilot Initiative. The OPM invitation and ILA guidance (Appendix A) asked agencies to develop ILA plans, participate in piloting ILAs and assist the Task Force in evaluating the effectiveness of ILAs for Federal workers. Agencies, within the parameters provided in the guidance, were encouraged to structure their pilots to use innovative models that best met their organizational needs. In developing pilot plans, agencies were requested to use the following definition of ILAs:
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.
ILA training opportunities were not limited to programs delivered by learning technology and could be used to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities that directly relate to the employee's official duties. In addition, the guidance explained the ILA pilot initiative as a strategy or tool that complemented current agency training activities. Sample objectives for agency ILA pilots included, but were not limited to:
As agencies identified possible pilots, they considered issues such as equity and union involvement in pilot development and implementation. For their final report to OPM, agencies also considered how to track the pilot results and any issues associated with the administration and funding of the pilots.
With the exception of Schedule C appointees and uniformed personnel in the U.S. Department of Defense, agencies were allowed to establish ILA pilots that included any executive branch Federal employee, including career, career conditional, part time, temporary, or excepted service employee in professional, technical, clerical, administrative, or management positions.
In response to OPM's invitation, thirteen agencies volunteered to participate in the ILA Pilot Initiative. However, one agency withdrew due to resource shortages that prevented the implementation of their ILA pilot. Additionally, another agency was not able to pilot one of its multiple ILAs. The remaining twelve agencies piloted fifteen ILA plans. The agencies were:
A listing of agency ILA coordinators is contained in Appendix B.
Agency Individual Learning Account pilot plans were received at OPM in January 2000. OPM reviewed the plans for adherence to the issued guidance and provided assistance to agencies requesting additional direction and feedback on their plans. Most pilots began in March 2000 and agencies began submitting initial pilot evaluations in September 2000.
The ILA pilot projects in these agencies ranged from covering all employees in the agency to targeting employees by specific occupations, grade levels, skill needs, and organization components. More than twenty-five thousand employees were covered by the ILA Pilot Initiative and approximately six thousand employees were actually participating in the pilots at the time of the evaluation reports. The ILA pilot resources included dollars, official time, or a combination of both. Descriptions of the pilots are contained in Appendix C.
OPM established an interagency group of ILA coordinators and worked with them through meetings and electronically throughout the pilot period. Agency issues raised during this phase were labor involvement, funding, management support for the project, ability and feasibility to assess and measure performance results of ILAs within the time frame of the project.
It is significant to note that although the pilot initiative has concluded, several agencies continue their ILA projects and have incorporated them into their planning and budgeting for fiscal year 2002.
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