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Training and Development Policy

Individual Learning Account Pilot Initiative

A Learning Tool for the 21st Century

Are Individual Learning Accounts A Practical Means of Improving Training Opportunities For Federal Employees?

Yes, the consensus of the pilot agencies is that the ILA pilots were a superior initiative and should be continued. They agreed ILAs expanded the flexibilities currently available for employee training and development. Agencies suggested that they could maximize the use of ILAs to address specific solutions to their human capital development issues through improving training opportunities.

Agencies confirmed that Individual Learning Accounts are a viable means of improving training opportunities for Federal employees as evidenced by the ILA pilots anecdotal and survey feedback.

woman at computer
"Employee reaction has been very positive. A significant number of employees applied to continue with the program this year. Over sixty percent of those who applied have been accepted. The majority of them have clearly defined career goals within the organization and they feel this program will help them reach those goals."
"Thank you so much for helping me get back into school."
"You all are really doing a good job with this! Really like taking courses online because you can take them at your own pace."
"The online university is great because it assists my employees with continuing development and encourages educational growth.The cost savings is even better!"

The increased flexibility and focused employee involvement and development realized through use of ILAs are apparent from the variety and creativity of pilot designs.The twelve agency ILA pilots included employees from the Senior Executive Service to GS-4 and wage grade.The diversity of the employee groups covered by the different ILA plans illustrated the many approaches that can be used by agencies to ensure equitable treatment of employees.

ILA resources ranged from more than $2 million in one agency to no funding in several others. Agencies creatively used combinations of funding, if available, and official and employee time. The ILA plans included innovative approaches to selecting training opportunities made available through the ILAs, as well as setting varied parameters for participants to build their own ILA Plan of Action.

The pilots also reveal that significantly effective learning opportunities can be provided without additional funding or with no funding. The following example illustrates how one pilot used time as an ILA resource.

The participants were granted an account of twenty official duty hours to pursue training and development activities.The goal of this ILA was to encourage and empower employees to take advantage of various learning opportunities. The job-related, no additional cost learning activities included:

  • On-line, web based technology and essential skills courses;
  • Self-study courses covering human resource practices and procedures;
  • Use of educational programs on audio and video cassette;
  • Professional counseling; and
  • College advisory services-counseling for employees who want to start or continue their college education.

The above example demonstrates the versatility of ILAs regardless of funding.

ILAs made training more visible in the pilot organizations and helped to highlight the connection between training, workforce development and strategic planning as illustrated by the following:

One agency's ILA pilot implementation incorporated employee assessment; targeted training opportunities for skill gaps identified; and provided on-line training and first level assessment as part of the ILA participant's experience. The self-assessment component was based on seventeen core competencies determined by the agency to be necessary skills for their workforce. The seventeen core competencies are directly related to leadership competencies, thereby preparing employees for a seamless transition from non-supervisory to leadership responsibilities.

Another agency targeted employees whose organizational component planned to modernize their systems thereby requiring employees to upgrade their skills. Participating employees were enthusiastic about their opportunity for involvement in the training process and the varied training options available to them. Eighty five percent of the eligible staff completed a Plan of Action to use their ILA tying the employee learning options to the established pilot and organizational goals. Sixty three percent completed one or more training courses during the time period of the pilot with over half of the respondents indicating that the courses they attended were very valuable to the effectiveness of their work.

The results of the ILA pilot initiative show that ILAs are a feasible and viable tool to broaden and enhance the training opportunities for Federal employees. When using ILAs, employees are more involved, responsible and accountable for their development. Because ILAs foster management and staff involvement in continuous learning decisions, they are more likely to result in skill development that is integrated with organizational goals. (Pilot results are excerpted in Appendix D.)

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