Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs)
An Individual Learning Account (ILA) is a learning tool that provides a flexible and innovative approach to developing Federal employees. Similar to a bank account that pays for training and development, an ILA is an account managed by employees to provide a vehicle for funding continuous learning. ILAs also present a flexible and innovative approach for employees to take control of their own learning and career development. By using ILAs, agencies shift their focus from a one-time learning event to continuous learning, from required training to strategic workforce development, and incorporate resources for training while balancing work and learning time. In addition, the employee can choose what they want to learn, how they want to learn and have the opportunity to gain the skills they need. ILAs are also meant to encourage more employees to invest (financially) in their own future, by contributing to their own accounts along with the contributions provided by the agency.
In January 1999, President Clinton issued an Executive Order No. 13111, "Using Technology to Improve Training Opportunities for Federal Government Employees," creating the Task Force on Federal Training Technology. The task force was required to develop options and recommendations for establishing a Federal Individual Training Account for each Federal employee, to be used for relevant training.
ILA Pilot Programs: At the recommendation of the task force, ILAs were piloted in the Federal government from March 2000 to September 2000. The overall intent of these programs was to see how individuals use their accounts over time, to have them invest their own money into building up their skills and to manage their own careers. In addition, the pilot programs were intended to demonstrate the feasibility, usefulness and effectiveness of ILAs. At the end, some agencies continued with the ILA program, others incorporated components into existing programs, and some opted to discontinue the program completely.
Federal Government Tools and Resources
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
- The FDIC currently has an active ILA that still resembles the original concept of their pilot program, despite some revisions. In order to understand how FDIC designed their program, click on the link for a copy of the FDIC ILA Program PowerPoint slides.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC developed an ILA in November 2005. Full-time permanent employees are provided $1000 in a learning account each year with a $3000 cap.
ILAs can also be used to supplement existing tuition reimbursement programs. Appropriation law requires monies appropriated for a given fiscal year be expended in that fiscal year (31 USC Sec. 1502). Executive Order No. 13111 states: "To the extent permitted by law, ILA accounts may be established with the funds allocated to the agency for employee training. No new funds are required to implement ILAs. The best way to determine if your agency has an ILA program is to inquire at your agency’s Human Resources Office.
Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs): Most Federal agencies do not currently use ILA’s as described in the pilot program. However, there are a few agencies that found ILA’s to be useful either by incorporating the ILA concept into established programs whose objectives are similar or they have incorporated some of its properties into another program. ILAs and Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs) offer a practical, sustainable way to pay for ongoing learning. In many cases, this type of program could solve some to the training budget problems within an agency.
Short on funds? Take a look at OPM’s Low-cost Training Options wiki page to see how you can stretch ILA funds while still gaining the desired skills.