Individual Training Accounts: evaluation
An evaluation of the Individual Training Account scheme.
Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) support eligible participants with up to £200 per year to access training to gain an industry recognised certificate. The aims of the programme are to: enhance the employment prospects of those in work or looking for work; equip people with the right skills to participate, and be successful within the labour market; and support employers by providing workers with opportunities to improve their work-related skills and qualifications.
First introduced as Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) in 2004, the most recent ITA programme launched in 2017. The most recent changes made for the 2017 programme included narrowing the range of eligible courses to make it more focussed on getting people into, or progressing in work, linking it to priorities around fair work and Scotland's Labour Market Strategy published in 2016. The programme is managed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and provides up to 18,500 funded places annually.
In 2022 the Scottish Government commissioned SQW and the Progressive Partnership to undertake an independent impact evaluation of the ITA programme since 2017. The evaluation was delivered between February and August 2022, and involved analysis of monitoring information, a short literature review, survey responses from over 2,000 ITA participants, a series of eight focus groups with participants and a series of 13 semi-structured interviews with training providers. A workshop to discuss the findings and options for further developing the programme was held with the Scottish Government and SDS in August 2022.
Overall, the evaluation findings from the ITA programme evaluation are positive. The evidence gathered showed that the programme is working well, with most participants and providers reporting satisfaction with the delivery experience and outcomes gained. Of those participants surveyed, 63% rated their overall experience as 'very good' and 27% 'quite good'.
The changes made from previous ILA/ITA programmes to the current one appear to have had the desired effect, i.e. most participants were motivated to use their ITAs to gain jobs, improving their employability and skillsets, which aligns to the policy intention behind the changes.
Since 2017/18 to February 2022, there were a total of 164,280 ITA applications, which resulted in 78,734 ITA courses booked and 59,778 claims made. As would be expected, applications, bookings and claims fell during the pandemic, however the data for 2021/22 suggests all are beginning to recover.
Younger people were more likely to book an ITA course (around 25% aged 16-25; 31% aged 26-31 each year), and slightly more likely to be out of work when doing so. Men are more likely than women to book a course (accounting for between 57% - 61% of ITAs each year), while women are more likely to be in work when they book a course. Most people booking an ITA course are white, although bookings from other minority ethnic groups are increasing. A small number of people disclose a disability. Almost a third of ITA bookings were from people who live in Glasgow City and the City of Edinburgh, which may be expected given the large population sizes in these Scottish cities. Most people do not top up their course cost above the £200 funding limit and most book a course only once.
Since 2017/18 Construction has accounted for the highest level of ITA course bookings, and this has been particularly driven by high numbers of people out of work, and young people. Fitness, Health and Beauty accounted for the second highest level, and people were more likely to be in work. During the pandemic in 2020/21, there were fluctuations in course choices with Fitness, Health and Beauty accounting for relatively low levels of ITA bookings and ITAs for Social Care courses increasing.
People found out about the ITA programme from a range of promotional sources: jobcentres; the SDS website; training providers; and recommendations from friends, family and colleagues were identified as the main sources. Most people applying for an ITA did so online through My World of Work. Covid-19 was reported to have little impact on ITA applications. Training providers had similarly positive experiences when processing applications and reported an efficient payment process. However, drop out rates after people had booked a course with a training provider, resulting in a 'no show', was identified as an important issue for those delivering face to face courses as it resulted in loss of revenue and empty places.
Most participants said that they would not have undertaken training without the ITA funding. This suggests the programme is encouraging additional training activity.
ITA funding influenced people's course choice, with most people more likely to choose courses which are eligible for ITA funding, and where the ITA will cover full course costs. In the latter cases, ITA funding is also restricting people's course choices, with almost half of people more likely to choose courses which do not exceed the £200 limit. Training providers have recognised this restriction and have not raised course costs above £200 to ensure price was not a barrier to participation, despite rising delivery costs. More funding would likely have influenced people's course choice, with half of ITA participants reporting they would have chosen a different course if more funding had been available.
There was evidence that ITAs helped people to find new and better jobs. Over half of those surveyed agreed that their ITA had helped them find a new job and over half of those unemployed before applying for their ITA were in work after training. Two in five people who were working full-time reported that their ITA had helped them find a better paying job. For those participants still out of work after training, ITAs had helped them pursue their interests and improve their skills, confidence and self-esteem.
Over half of survey respondents did not want to see any changes to the ITA programme. Similarly, the evaluation does not highlight any areas requiring urgent change.
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