OPM plugs learning accounts

OPM memo

The Office of Personnel Management is urging all agencies to seriously consider using an innovative training and education program piloted by 12 agencies last year. The pilot was so successful that several agencies have already incorporated the program into future budgets.

In a September memo, OPM Director Kay Coles James called on agencies to use individual learning accounts as a way to help attract and retain employees, who are often concerned about keeping their skills updated.

Agencies can install a broad range of programs under individual learning accounts. The basic premise is to define resources—including money, technology and time—that individual employees can use to advance their skills throughout the year.

OPM created a pilot program in December 1999 and earlier this year released a report on results from the 12 participating agencies, which include the departments of Commerce, Defense, Labor and Transportation. More than 6,000 employees participated, ranging in level from the Senior Executive Service to GS-4.

Individual learning accounts are funded from agencies' existing training budgets, according to an OPM guide on developing such programs. Benefits include improved morale and program performance as employees and their managers work together to create the accounts, including defining personal and program goals.

At the Federal Highway Administration, pilot participants "generally saw [individual learning accounts], among other things, as an opportunity to assume greater responsibility for their professional development," according to the OPM report.

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