The British Institute of Learning & Development promises to put L&D first

It may be a minnow in comparison to the CIPD, but can the British Institute of Learning & Development put L&D first?

Having just celebrated its first anniversary, the British Institute for Learning & Development (Bild), is forging ahead with plans to address the needs and raise the status of all those companies and individuals involved in L&D.


It was born out of the British Learning Association, which in turn was formed by the merger of the British Association for Open Learning and The Forum for Technology in Training in November 2003. As a registered charity, Bild is a non-profit making organisation that aims to support the L&D sector.

Jack Wills, who has chaired Bild since before it achieved institute status and was on the board of the British Association of Online Learning, says Bild was formed to give L&D professionals a dedicated body.

Change of emphasis

He says this was a direct result of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) more legislative and mainstream HR focus. “I think it became clear that from the CIPD’s perspective L&D was slipping further down the HR agenda,” says Wills, who is still a full member of the CIPD.

Although the CIPD was formed after the merger between the Institute of Training and Development and Institute of Personnel Management in 1994, it “quite rightly” began to focus on legislative issues such as employment law and general HR topics.

“A lot of L&D professionals found the emphasis of the CIPD was drifting much more towards HR rather than L&D,” says Wills. “Thousands of L&D professionals are CIPD members – purely as a means of demonstrating that we belonged to professional body – even though its direction isn’t aimed at improving the knowledge of L&D professionals, and therefore professionalism in the sector. With the Bild I think we’ve done something quite special because it really is the only institute that represents L&D professionals.”

While Wills is suitably upbeat, Bild membership figures are appropriately modest for a relatively new organisation – with about 20 new members joining the organisation per month, and a current membership of 570. Naturally one of Bild’s objectives for 2008 is to raise the profile of its membership.

“We’ve got people from the educational and private sector, developers, training providers and individual consultants, but we want to achieve a nice broad church of membership so that we can really establish what’s going on in the market,” says Wills.

Bild strategy

A key part of Bild’s strategy is to align itself with the main training providers in the UK – this has included the Training Foundation, which has formulated the learning accreditation system known as Training Application Performance (TAP), and is a rival organisation to the CIPD.

“It would be idiotic not to talk to them and find out what’s going on,” says Wills. “We have some initiatives with them, but that’s not to say we won’t be doing with others, and we’ve got people looking at that right now.”

Wills emphasises that while Adrian Snook, who is the deputy chief executive of the Training Foundation, is also a member of the Bild board, he never participates in discussions where there is any conflict of interest.

Membership rates

Bild membership rates range from £80 for one year for an affiliate with associate, member and fellow status all priced at £120. TAP-certified applicants get a special rate of £60 for affiliate level, and £90 for others. There is a joining fee of £30. Wills insists the body ploughs all funds back into the membership, employing only two full-time officers at its Bristol office, one of whom is Will’s daughter, and Bild business manager, Sarah Wills.

“Our members get quite a lot for their bucks,” insists Wills. “Six free national seminars, plus access to the website. We should soon have a free magazine for members, which will be quarterly, if not bi-monthly, as well as a fortnightly e-mail called Billboard. They will also have access to a MySpace page.

Bild has also developed a quality mark which it awards to accredited training departments, centres and providers. It hopes to extend this to individual consultants.

“We’re looking at becoming a fully-fledged awarding body, but we know that uses resources and we’re determined not to become a monolithic body that insists that everyone has to become accredited,” says Wills. “That’s not what we’re about. Our main aim is to raise the professionalism of our members and expose them to new techniques. If we do move in this direction, we will take the continuous professional development route for L&D professionals.”

Annual conference

Bild’s annual conference takes place on 12 June at the CBI Conference Centre, London.

The theme of this year’s event will be Engagement in Learning with topics including: building a business case for learning and development, increasing the number of people engaged in learning and improving the connection between learning and talent development.

The keynote speaker will be Bill Rammell MP, minister of state, lifelong learning, further and higher education, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. He will be joined by representatives from the University for Industry, Learndirect, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the Institute of Directors. Tickets cost £245 + VAT for members (and £445 + VAT for non-members) with capacity for 350 delegates. The conference is open to anyone with an interest in L&D – from practitioners to organisations looking for guidance on best practice. Telephone: 0207 231 5100.

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