SHEFFIELD training and enterprise council has by-passed banks and building societies and developed "virtual" learning accounts for non-traditional learners.
Some of the 197 people taking part in an individual learning account pilot scheme run last year had never held a bank account. Instead of forcing them to use one for the first time, the training council issued people with an entitlement worth pound;150 and told training providers to invoice them for the money once the learner had enrolled on a course.
"We wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible for non-traditional learners," said project manager Christine Davies. "We were quick to get everything off the ground and people understood how the learning account worked."
To qualify for an account, people had to be working for an organisation with fewer than 250 employees and not have a degree or an equivalent professional qualification.
Typical account-holders included engineers, care assistants and administrative workers. IT-related courses were by far the most popular choice.
About three-quarters of employers made a contribution to their employee's account, although this was not stipulated by the council. Ms Davies added:
"Some people were nervous about involving their employer. It's not very appropriate for people wanting to change career."
The Sheffield scheme was run in tandem with a pilot project at Humberside TEC, part of the same consortium, which targeted more than 80 part-time and temporary workers through recruitment agencies.