When you think of AVETMISS do you just quietly or possibly loudly sigh and resign yourself to the fact that you will never really understand it? If someone asked you what does AVETMISS stand for or how it works what would you do? More than likely pass the buck by saying “ask so and so, they’ll explain it better”? Or do you think that you don’t need to worry about AVETMISS because you have no government funding?
When the AQTF standards were released in 2010, the statement in Condition 6 that “The applicant must have a student records management system that has the
capacity to provide the registering body with AVETMISS compliant data.” saw many ‘Fee for Service’ RTOs hit the panic button, especially CRICOS registered RTOs. Not only did many not have a Student Management System, to them the word AVETMISS was from a different language, even planet.
With the move for many to ASQA and the NVR system, they may have removed this statement from the National Vocation Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 but you will find that this statement has been added to the DPR (Data Provision Requirements 2011). There is no escape from the fact that all RTOs must EDUCATE themselves and their staff in relation to AVETMISS.
AVETMISS (Australian Vocational Education and Training Management Information Statistical Standard) doesn’t have to be confusing or complex nor does it need to be stressful for staff at submission time. Let’s take a look and see if we can make it simpler for you.
When you do AVETMISS data submissions you are submitting information in a set of data files (don’t panic, we’ll get to this really soon) that shows the training activity that you provide.
In simple terms the data you provide relates to your students (in the standards and elsewhere they are called Clients) and the data includes:
Who they are: information such as the student’s age, gender, demographic information, indigenous & disability, prior education information as well as where they live.
Where they study: information such as your RTOs name, address, contact person as well as what type of provider you are, such as government or private provider.
What they study: this information relates to a student’s course of study, what units of competency or modules they are studying, when they started and when they will finish their study for each unit of competency/module. How was the training delivered (classroom, workplace etc), how it was funded and the results (outcome)
achieved for each unit of competency/module.
All this data is then broken down into a number of files that are called NAT files and they are identified by a number for example NAT00010, NAT00020 and so on. Each file then has specific information in it that relates to the 3 areas for the student as previously mentioned.
For each RTO, based on if you have ‘funded’ students or just ‘fee for service’ will then determine extra information (standardised settings) that is required that relates specifically to the type of qualification/course and the units of competency/modules as well as for ‘funded’ what type of funding your RTO is receiving for training a student.
Simply put a NAT file is a .txt file (you will also know it as a notepad file) and looks something like the image below:
A NAT file can have one line of data in it, such as the NAT00010 or like the example above, the NAT00120 has many rows of data. To a novice it seems to have just letters, numbers, some symbols and even empty spaces but this all adds up to meaningful data. For all States other than Western Australia (they merge the data into 2 files only) there is a set of 10 NAT files that are as follows:
NAT00010 – Training Organisation file – this will have data in it relating to your RTO ID and name, address information and main contact person and their contact details.
NAT00020 – Training Organisation Delivery Location file – this will have data in it relating to the locations that you deliver training. If your RTO only has one delivery location then it would have the similar information in it as the NAT00010.
NAT00030 – Course file – this will have data in it relating to each course/qualification that is listed in the NAT00120. For example, you may deliver training in 10 courses/qualifications BUT for the specific submission period you may only have data in 5 of these courses/qualifications so they will be the only course/qualification codes that list in both the NAT00120 and this NAT file. Also a course/qualification code may repeat itself many times in the NAT00120 BUT in the NAT00030 it
must only be listed once.
NAT00060 – Module/Unit of Competency file – this will have data in it relating to each module/unit of competency listed in the NAT00120. In the same fashion as the NAT00030 a module/unit of competency code may repeat itself many times in the NAT00120 but in this NAT file it must only be listed once.
NAT00080 – Client file – remember a client is a student. This will have data in it relating to each student listed in the NAT00120. A student cannot be listed in the NAT00080 and NOT be in the NAT00120 and/or NAT00130. The information in this file relates to the student, such as their unique Identifier, name, DOB, gender and specific information such as their Indigenous status, highest year they completed in High School and what year that was. Are they working or not, do they have any disabilities or prior educational achievements etc? It does NOT contain their address information it only shows the Suburb in which they live.
NAT00085 – Client Postal Address Details file – for each student listed in the NAT00080 they will have in this file their unique Identifier, name, address and contact details such as phone, mobile, work and email address listed.
NAT00090 – Disability file – in the NAT00080 file there is a field of data for Disability and it shows a Y or N. If it displays as a Y in the NAT00080 for a student then that student will be listed in this file with an Identifier as to the type of disability they have.
NAT00100 – Prior Educational Achievement file – in the NAT00080 file there is a field of data for Prior Educational Achievement and it shows a Y or N. If it displays as a Y in the NAT00080 for a student then that student will be listed in this file with an Identifier as to the type of prior educational achievement they have.
NAT00120 – Enrolment file – this NAT file will generally always have more data in it than any of the other NAT files. For each student listed in the NAT00080 they will be listed in this file for each course of study (if a student was completing and starting 2 courses of study in the one year they could be in this file multiple times) each module/unit of competency and the relevant information for it. Please be aware that each State has different interpretations of whether ALL modules/units of competency should be listed for the student or only ‘current activity’ should be listed. You need to make sure you understand what your State/s requires.
NAT00130 – Qualification completed file – this NAT file will list students that have completed their studies and if they were awarded a qualification or not. Please be aware that each State has a different interpretation of whether a student should be listed here if they were not awarded a qualification, in essence they only want to see the students that were issued a qualification. You need to make sure you understand what your State/s requires.
Each number, each letter, each symbol in the NAT file adds up to valuable data that provides information that is used to shape policy, monitor VET activity, evaluates initiatives and helps to plan for the future of the industry.
As you can see the NAT files require a large amount of data from different areas of your business. Managing that data and making sure it is ‘clean data’ is one of an RTOs biggest problems. We have previously talked about data management in an article called ‘The Devils in the Data’ (May 2012 issue) and in this article we identified ways to manage your data. We looked at samples of problematic data and how you can better manage it.
Some suggestions were:
- Review your data quality management policies and procedures on a regular basis to identify improvements.
- Monitor your data with random daily or weekly data quality checks. The rule should be 10% of all data entered that day/week should be randomly checked.
- For AVETMISS data files get to know them, understand their structure and what each piece of data means and then over time you will be able to open each NAT file and do a scroll down glance and you will be amazed at how easily you can view and pick up data problems.
This is where people get the most confused. Errors tell you that there are problems with specific data but of course you have to decipher the error first to know what data has problems.
Depending on what State you are reporting in will determine what format you see your errors and what they mean. For example in Queensland your validation errors are emailed to you in both a pdf and excel format whereas in other States you log into your account and view the errors online.
For Queensland error reports, at first you will want to use the pdf as it is easier to view but overtime it is recommended that you get comfortable with the excel version as you can sort by the errors (the pdf is organised by the NAT file numbers) and you can then filter on each error to work through them a lot faster and also see where the same error is repeated for relevant students, qualifications, competencies etc in the one go. For each error you need to look at the specific information it is telling you such as:
What NAT file is the error in?
What is the error in the data?
Let’s look at some simple examples to help you better understand this.
Above is a QLD error report (this is a pretend RTO). The first thing you should do is identify what NAT file is the error relating to and you can find this highlighted in red above. We know it relates to the NAT00020 which is to do with the Training Organisation Delivery Location. Then you should read the ‘Description’ & ‘Supporting Details’ to see if you understand what the problem is with your data. In this error it is relatively simple in that it is saying that the State ID that is entered in the NAT00020 is not linked to the Postcode given in the NAT00020. AVETMISS uses the Australia Post list for address Suburb, State & Post Code matching, a user has entered in the RTOs database a State (that would link to a State ID) but the post code they have entered does not match that Suburb & State link. They would need to go back to their database, identify what suburb, state & postcode was entered and check the Australia Post website for the correct information, fix this up and then resubmit their data once all errors have been fixed.
If a similar error was in the NAT00080 (Client File) it would look like the above sample. In the NAT00080 they give you a better ‘Supporting Details’ information, they are saying that the postcode submitted was 4514 and the Suburb was Delonies Creek. If you do a search on the Australia Post website (post code search) there is no suburb of DELONIES CREEK BUT 4514 does link to DELANEYS CREEK.
Another simple error to understand would be:
This error relates to the NAT00060 (Module/Unit of Competency file) and it is saying for the Module code of BSBDIV601A the funded hours of 60 that the RTO entered is wrong (see the image on the bottom of the page). It then shows in the ‘Supporting Details’ what they are expecting to see ie: 70 hours. The RTO would have to change this in their database system so that it is correct.
A more frustrating and stressful style error (this is an error from Victoria) is one where the same error number repeats itself (possibly hundreds of times) for the one Module or even Course in the NAT00120. An example of this is below:
You can see for the Module code of SROODR002A it has repeated itself twice but for different Client Id’s. The actual problem is that for that Module, in the RTOs database, has Schedule Hours = 0 (which is wrong) yet they say that the student attended study for 10 hours for this module. Luckily in this scenario there was only 2 student’s linked to that module, imagine if there had been 500 student’s linked to that module? There would have been 500 entries for each student for this one error.
These types of errors cause staff at RTOs to panic because they can end up with error reports that are hundreds of pages long. They also believe that they have to fix the problem hundreds of times, where in fact generally by going to the module in your database and changing the number for this setting it should in fact fix the problem then for every student. Please note this does however depend on what Student Management System you are using.
From experience error reports are the most uncomfortable part of the AVETMISS data submission process for people. Trying to decipher some errors is stressful and overwhelming where people have repetition of errors as discussed above. It is recommended that you have consistency in who does your data submissions and error reports so that they become, overtime, ‘experts’ in this process. It will mean a faster turnaround in a successful validation of your data as well as less panic and confusion.
As part of resolving submission errors & deciphering them, you will need to become familiar with the Standards documents for the ‘structure’ of NAT files. This means you need to really understand and be familiar with the data that is in each NAT file. The hardest one generally to understand and be comfortable with is the NAT00120.
You can find the standards documentation typically on the websites of each State & Territory Training Authorities as well as on the NCVER website of www.ncver.edu.au under Statistical Standards > VET Providers.
From NCVER there are 2 documents you will need that are:
AVETMISS VET Provider Collection specifications – this explains each NAT File and the structure (what data is in it) of the file.
AVETMISS Data element definitions – this is like a dictionary that explains each field that is in the NAT file.
Let’s look at a sample of each document
AVETMISS VET Provider Collection Specifications
Each NAT file with start on a new page and be broken down into different sections. The most important section and the one that you will spend the larger part of your time in is the ‘Field Table section’ as highlighted in the image below:
The Field table will explain the following:
What data is required in the file?
What position the data is in.
What is the length of each piece of data?
What type of data it must be, for example N (numerical), A (alpha) or D (date).
As you can see the image shows the NAT00080 which we know is the Client File. The first piece of information required in that file is the Client Identifier which is in position 1 and has 10 characters (length) and is an alpha type characters required. This means without looking you should know that the next piece of data doesn’t start in the NAT00080 until position 11 and this is Name for encryption which translates to the student’s name.
This table becomes really important when errors are saying that data is wrong or missing. To learn to become comfortable it is important to be able to see the wrong or missing data for yourself in the NAT file. To do this you have to be able to open the NAT file and go to that specific position in the NAT file for that student. To do
this you have to open the NAT file in notepad or another application that allows you to read the file easily, for example EditPlus.
In the first image on the next page you can see that the NAT00080 has been opened (let’s say you had an error stating that the postcode did not match the suburb for the student) and the cursor is on the last row of data in position 86 which is where the POSTCODE for the student commences. You can see it is postcode of 4226 (4 characters in length) and then it is quiet easy to see the word SOUTHPORT in the file at the end of the row. If you do an Australia Post search the postcode for
Southport is NOT 4226 it is 4215. It is always recommended that you do randomly check your data files for the errors that you are getting as there has been known times where RTOs data is correct it is the systems validating the data that are wrong.
Please note this NAT file, as displayed above, was opened in an application called EditPlus (you need to purchase this application) which helps users to find the data positions easily. If you use Notepad it is not as easy to identify the position of data, you have to put your cursor at the beginning of the row and count as you hit your right hand arrow (on your keyboard)along the row until you reach the required position. Each hit of the arrow counts as 1 character/position.
AVETMISS Data Element Definitions
As mentioned before this document is a bit like a dictionary, it lists all the field names in the NAT files and explains what those fields are and any rules around them. Earlier we showed NAT00080 file structure in the AVETMISS VET Provider Collection specifications and we mentioned that the first field of data in that file is the Client Identifier. If you then search for the word Client Identifier in this document you will see this:
It gives you an explanation of that field of data and rules etc. The client identifier in this case is actually the Student Number for a specific student that you issued to them (or your student management system does) it is not their unique identifier that the government issues to them for funding etc.
PLEASE NOTE: for this article we downloaded and used the documents from the NCVER site. This site provides you with the national set of data requirements. Most States follow the national set of data requirements BUT then also have extra data requirements after the national set. For example the national data file structure for the NAT00120 finishes in position 123 but Victoria for example has extra information it wishes you to submit that will come after position 123. You must always download the documents from whichever state you are submitting data to so that you make sure you understand not only the national data requirements but the state level requirements as well.
We hope this has helped to ‘demystify’ AVETMISS a little for you? AVETMISS isn’t that difficult to understand but don’t tell the ‘powers that be’ this, they’ll make it even harder.
Reference: RTO Success Magazine