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CIPD Scotland calls for new initiatives to tackle nation’s long-term skills challenges

CIPD Scotland has called for a reform of Scotland’s skills system and further employer incentives to tackle shortages and aid the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

In its report, Skills to Grow, the body made the case for the introduction of enhanced individual learning accounts (ILAs) which would provide government-subsidised discounts on selected education.

Initially introduced in Scotland in 2004, the report found that ILAs were most effective at stimulating demand for lifelong learning among working-age adults over 25.

The flexibility of the scheme also means that it could be tailored to target specific areas of economic need as well as learner barriers in skills development.

ILAs have since been replaced by an individual training account (ITA) – but little has changed since their first iteration in 2004.

CIPD Scotland therefore recommended updates to the scheme which would help to target current skills challenges.

To account for the rising cost of training, it has recommended that enhanced ILAs receive increased government funding from £200 to £500, with a buildable entitlement over several years.

It also said additional living costs for the lowest earners should be considered, and employer buy-in be prioritised to ensure a long-term commitment to learners.

To achieve buy-in, CIPD Scotland recommended both financial incentives and consideration of career progression agreements.

Marek Zemanik, senior public policy adviser at CIPD Scotland, said leaders and policymakers have a duty to support peoples’ skills development in the forthcoming economic recovery, especially considering the way the pandemic has accelerated underlying economic shifts, such as automation.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Enhanced individual learning accounts can play a key role in upskilling, but their impact depends on employer buy-in and cooperation. HR leaders therefore have a crucial role to play in making them work.”

ILAs were introduced in England in 2000, but the scheme quickly closed in 2001 due to weaknesses in the system that made it vulnerable to fraud.

The UK government has since laid out its plans for a Lifetime Skills Guarantee (LSG) to give eligible adults free access to college courses.

Unlike an ILA, analysis of the LSG found that it may overlook many mid-career workers aged 25-49 in sectors like hospitality, which would benefit the most from the scheme.

Rachel Statham, senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, told HR magazine: "As this crisis continues, people across the UK face continued disruption to their working lives, with consequences that could reach far into their futures.

“Governments and employers should be seizing this opportunity to invest in workforce learning and training opportunities, including for those workers who are most exposed to the economic fallout from COVID-19.

“Enhanced ILAs could play a key role in securing the futures of workers across the UK, through this crisis and beyond."