Are you 100% confident your Registered Training Organisation will be ready to lodge your 2015 AVETMISS data in January? Have you validated it? Is it clean and tidy?

No? Didn't think so. Look, that's okay - you're far from alone.

How not ready are you? Let's find out.

To make sure you don't get stuck behind a wall of errors trying to lodge your data in January, there are three main areas to consider. These may seem obvious, but each one has its own unique catches:

  1. Getting the data in
  2. Getting the data right
  3. Getting the data really, really "right"

For each of these there are some important things that you should be doing already, and some others to consider when cleaning up the data.

Before we start, I should wrap this in the caveat that I speak not as an RTO Compliance Consultant, but as a software developer who's dealt with common AVETMISS problems in the trenches. This general advice may not keep you covered in an Audit; there are many fine firms out there who can assist you with compliance!

Getting the data in

Obviously without having your data housed in a sensible management system well before the due date, unless you train a very low number of students you're going to struggle to meet any deadlines!

Many RTOs use desktop Student Management Systems to collect data from paper forms - this is fine, as long as the forms are correct and the management system tells you when they're not. Obviously this is often not the case.

Some have enrolment or student portals to collect the data electronically - this is a great start, because a decent enrolment portal will verify your students' data as it's entered (allowing them to correct it themselves).

Some, on the other hand, have trainer portals where the trainer enters the data electronically. Again, this is a good start, but often the trainer will be hamstrung by unintelligible information on forms or students who've got their own details wrong. This happens more frequently than you'd think.

Here are the key takeaways from our experience on data collection:

  • Make sure you have a system (any system will do as long as you're collecting the full data set, but it's always simpler to buy a Student Management System from a company that's thought this through for you already) - even a homebrewed Excel spreadsheet is better than a filing cabinet full of paper forms.

  • Make sure you remind your trainers and students of the importance of this data being complete and accurate.

  • Have procedures in place to follow up students or trainers who give you incomplete data as soon as possible after it's collected

Getting the data right

No matter how clearly or frequently you explain to your trainers and students the importance of getting data absolutely right, sometimes in the moment the urge to "get it done" drowns out the understanding that you have to get it right.

Your students want to see your content, your trainers want the data in so certificates can be issued. Understandable, but not ideal.

Our clients train hundreds of thousands of students a year; we see all sorts! Here are some classic cases:

  • My street address is "123 Na St, Yeahnah VIC 3333"
    Sure, you've filled all the fields in, but this is, um, not a real address. "Don't know" under street address is another good one. If you're lodging state data, you're hosed unless you have a real, valid, complete address for every student (including postal address). For federal lodgement, the data is anonymised, so you can deal with a little bit of slippage here but not much. At a minimum the suburb has to be accurate but for any students where you've only got partial information you need to have a process in place for following this information up and collecting the gaps.

  • My name is "Fred" (but my drivers licence says Frederick)
    This is a doozy, because often what someone is known as to their mates is not their legal name, and sometimes it's difficult to get students to understand this point. In the age of the USI, it's crucial that you emphasise early and often that you need every student's legal name, matching exactly what they signed up for their USI with (what's on their driver's licence is the easiest explanation).

  • I live at PO Box 1234, Melbourne VIC 3001
    Make sure you collect physical addresses for your students' residential addresses, and make sure you have a procedure to validate that the postcode corresponds to a physical address location. National validation will check this, and the difference between Melbourne 3001 and Melbourne 3000 is that 3000 will make it through lodgement for a residential address, but 3001 will stop your import as it's PO Boxes only.

  • "I'll give you my USI later"
    For a trainer on the spot this is tempting to accept, but you should be absolutely clear that your students (unless they have an exemption - or you do!) will not receive their qualifications - under ASQA rules, in the absence of an exemption you can't issue a student with a qualification unless you have a confirmed valid USI.

Getting the data really, really "right"

If your Student Management System is validating information properly on entry (or only letting people use pre-chosen options) this can be simpler than you might think, but if your systems aren't up to scratch then you can have real trouble.

AVETMISS data standards specify a list of valid choices available for most fields, including suburb. You can't use a freeform name for a suburb, it must match the data they're expecting to see.

  • I live in "Somewhere North" (but the postcode is technically "North Somewhere")
    I live at "Smith Station" (a large property which, while recognisable to locals, isn't a gazetted postcode area)

    Suburb names must be exactly right, in the correct order, and match the postcode and state of the student, both for postal information and for residential address.

  • "I was born in 1984, but finished school in 1986"
    "I work full time; also I'm still at school"
    Make sure your collection procedures have sensible checks to make sure you don't try to lodge inconsistent data - if your data doesn't make sense, the NCVER portal will notice and you won't be able to lodge.

In these situations where you have the tools to get a list of inconsistent values, sometimes it's possible to make an "educated guess", and sometimes you need to contact the student.

Obviously the Somewhere North / North Somewhere example is easily fixed (but time consuming if you have a large number of students), but make sure you have procedures in place to:

  • Contact Trainers or Students to collect their information when the data is so inconsistent that you can't see where the errors are

  • Maintain a record of any changes you've made to data based on "educated guesses" where it's possible to fill the gaps.

Plan well, and you'll be fine!

Obviously the easiest way to make AVETMISS lodgement as painless as possible is to collect a complete, consistent, and validated set of data from each enrolment, but even if you do it's important year-round to maintain good procedures for data quality and consistency for the inevitable situations where someone fudges it to save themselves a few seconds.

If your data set is flaky or inconsistent, you need to start work now on preparing yourself for January if you haven't already. Run an export from your management system, run a trial validation on NCVER and see how big the problem is. You might sail through with zero, but it's likely that somewhere in there will be students whose data is just that little bit off.

Again, the advice of a qualified Audit consultant is always going to be your best bet in this situation, but I hope the tips above based on our experience help you get ahead of the problem and have the chance to rest over the New Year break.

Want some help? We can help you clean up your AVETMISS data using our Truss RTO product, without moving you off your existing systems.

It's a quick and painless process; give us your broken NAT files, and we'll give you back NAT files that work, plus a variance report to take back to your existing systems and correct your data. 

Get in touch to get started from just $599.

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