Early indications are that the replacement for the failed Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) training scheme could look much like its predecessor, raising doubts about why it is taking so long to get off the ground.
And the unnecessary delay in establishing a replacement for ILAs is forcing IT training firms out of business, said Ian Watkinson, chairman of the Association of Computer Trainers (ACT). "Not that much was wrong with the system that it couldn't have been fixed quickly," he said.
The Department for Education and Skills (DfES)was unable to say when the new scheme would be launched. A spokesman said that before a replacement could be delivered, it was essential to learn all the lessons from the previous experience.
The government will be taking advice from a number of sources. The Education and Skills Committee report was released last week, as was a consultation paper documenting the views of trainers and trainees by management consultants Segal Quince Wicksteed (SQW).
It is likely that the replacement scheme will be run by Capita, which administered the original ILAs. Despite concerns over its role in the collapse, the company has not been excluded by the Education and Skills Select Committee, and to put the contract out to tender again could take an extra nine months.
The SQW research found that most trainers believed a lack of quality training and accreditation caused the downfall of the initial programme. Six out of ten believed that this could be addressed by withholding payment for trainers until after completion of the course.
"By ensuring that the scheme is only open to genuine trainers, many of the problems could have been avoided. It should be possible to resolve this problem quickly," said James O'Brien, managing director of Pitman Training.
The other issue to tackle for the replacement scheme was the security surrounding the accounts. Initially these were only protected by one ten-digit password, and in some cases accounts numbers were sequential, making it easy to break the protection.
Improving the security would have been easy, said ACT's Watkinson. By requiring account numbers to be linked to account names, and locking out users after three incorrect attempts, ILAs would have been "relatively secure", he said.
Despite such apparent flaws in security, the government's investigation into the matter is still continuing. The DfES hired consultants Cap Gemini Ernst & Young to review the security.
Their report was due in late February but is still not available. A DfES spokesman, however, indicated that a version of the report could be available by the end of this month. No reason for the delay was given.
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