Giving credit where it is due
The Guidance for Individual Learning Accounts in Tuscany (GILAT) was a true example of successful exploitation – and dissemination. It was funded under a Commission scheme which encouraged eight European regions to exploit the results of Leonardo da Vinci projects of interest to them. The project helped the Tuscany region (IT) to locate and adapt a useful ‘product’ on training vocational guidance counsellors developed by Glasgow University’s Department of Adult Education (UK).
Banking on training
Financing is sometimes a challenge when it comes to the provision of continuing education and vocational training – individual tailoring of programmes is another. Individual learning accounts seek to address these two issues directly.
Ever since lifelong learning became an EU policy priority with the launch of the Lisbon Strategy in 2000, such accounts have been seen as a useful tool to help citizens continuously renew their skills base.
Individual learning accounts encourage people to contribute to the cost of their own learning through special savings and deposits that attract matching or supplementary grants and benefits from public and private funding. Other examples include schemes that give employees an amount of time or money to pursue learning of their own choice.
Given the benefits of such accounts, the Tuscany region decided to develop its own scheme to provide several thousand people over the age of 35 with a prepaid credit card worth € 3 000 to cover the cost of participation in training activities. Each learning account holder will have access to a guidance counsellor. This means that the region will need to have 100 trained counsellors on hand to offer support.
Borrowing bright ideas
When preparing for the scheme, Tuscany decided that it was unnecessary to reinvent the wheel and sought out relevant experience in other parts of Europe. This was motivated by a desire to reduce the time required for development and implementation. An internet search directed it to a UK project funded by the Leonardo da Vinci programme.
Led by the Department of Education at Glasgow University, the project in question had produced three products which were of relevance for Tuscany: a training manual for guidance counsellors on issues related to access to vocational guidance for people at risk of social exclusion; an on-line course on the same topic; and examples of good practice.
Building upon these UK products, adapting them to meet Tuscany's needs and finally offering a training model (both face-to-face and distance training) in Italian has been a true success.