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The VET Data Streamlining program: What’s happening and what does it mean for VET compliance?

The VET Data Streamlining program will result in a significant change for the VET sector.

Due to change the way providers of vocational education report their training data, the way it is collected and used, and also the actual data being collected throughout the process, its ultimate aim is to enable more data consistency and insight for the VET system.

Why? To ensure the system remains a world-class system for training into the future.

ReadyTech has been a central part of the project from the beginning. Having attended every single meeting and been a part of every reference group since 2020, we have been highly active in representing the interests of our diverse footprint of TAFE and VET customers.

We are also well prepared to ensure our customers’ systems are ahead of the coming changes.

The VET Data Streamlining program can be summarised as having two basic aims:

  • To increase the speed at which VET data is reported

A core aim of the VET Data Streamlining program is to move from retrospective to progressive data reporting. Essentially changing data submission from periodic to real-time, it will ensure that data can be collected and utilised much faster than in the past.

  • To create a new data standard to replace AVETMISS

The VET Data Streamlining program will create a new data standard to replace AVETMISS. The standard will incorporate data elements previously required under AVETMISS, while expanding to include and consolidate data now required by different states and territories.

When introducing the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Data Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2023, Federal Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, summarised the target outcome as having ‘better data, faster’.

“Reforms to VET data reporting mean we’ll be able to better understand where our current and future economic and industry needs lie – and be in a better position to respond to challenges like the pandemic - and the ones to come,” Minister O’Connor said.

Data streamlining will see the Student Management Systems provided by ReadyTech playing a crucial role. They are the vehicles through which training providers like TAFEs and RTOs will collect and submit data. They remain mission-critical systems for VET compliance.


From point-in-time to progressive data reporting

Data collection in VET is acknowledged as being too slow in a fast-changing world.

Designed as a distributed system, it is currently a mix of states and territories taking the data they collect and sending it on to National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) periodically, as well as national AVETMISS data collections once a year.

The problem is, by the time NCVER is able to process this data and derive meaningful insights from it, the industry is about 18 months away from that activity taking place.

This is now understood as an unacceptable lag when it comes to making new (or measuring existing) policy decisions, or getting data into the hands of stakeholders in the system.

The VET Data Streamlining program was designed to upgrade this to real-time (or near-real time) reporting.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) is currently building a new system called STARS (the Student Training and Reporting System). The idea is that this system will act as the centralised vehicle for national vocational training data collection.

If this system was agreed to by all states and territories, it would mean that instead of data being sent to and going through the states and territories first, the new system would see data sent directly to a centralised, single point custodian of the data, NCVER.

That data would then be made available to states and territories and industry stakeholders.

The idea is this would help data move faster. In technical terms, the system would move on from flat text NAT file reporting to full API or transaction-based reporting. This would mean when things happen in an SMS, this would be sent directly to NCVER.

For education providers who will be involved in this data reporting process, it is likely that SMS integrations like ReadyTech’s will support real-time reporting as standard, but may also support near real-time reporting, or batched reporting, as an option for providers.


Replacing AVETMISS with a new data standard

The AVETMISS data standard is quite old – 29 years old, in fact. First implemented in 1994, it has been the backbone data standard that has ensured largely consistent reporting of VET data in Australia, providing powerful insights that have helped shape the system over time.

The data standard is not perfect, however. Over the years, states and territories have added their own additional, bespoke, below the line data requirements within their jurisdictions, leading to duplications and discrepancies when viewed from a national standpoint.

For example, SMS vendors like ReadyTech need to maintain eight different sets of files!

The new data standard that will replace AVETMISS is an attempt to consolidate and simplify the data being collected around Australia. It will bring AVETMISS together with the data states and territories want into a collective new data standard to take us into the future.

This will be an extended data collection. Essentially, more data will be included for collection so the new standard will provide more insight on the vocational education training system as a whole, allowing governments and stakeholders within the system to make better decision.

The new standard, a result of collaborative process with providers including ReadyTech, is also being designed to incorporate change. It should be flexible and easy to update, so that as things change in future, the standard can also adapt to incorporate and reflect that change.


Why is the VET Data Streamlining program being undertaken?

It would be safe to say not all VET training providers are raving fans of data reporting and compliance. Traditionally a significant administration burden – something SMS providers have helped to solve – compliance reporting is often seen as a big problem for providers.

While the technical details of the system are still being worked through, the idea of more data being collected, of an extended data standard, could be perceived as adding complexity for providers. After all, on a national basis there will definitely be more data to report.

However, there will be system-wide benefits. Minister Brendan O’Connor is right when he says students, training providers, regulators and governments are not having their information needs met, because the activity data can be up to 20 months old before it is published.

The advantages of more timeliness and data quality within the VET system include understanding where our current and future economic and industry needs lie – and being in a better position to respond to challenges, address skills gaps and seize opportunities.


When will the new VET data system be rolled out?

The VET Data Streamlining program is far from straightforward. With so many parties involved, from DEWR and NCVER, to SMS providers, State Training Authorities (STAs), and of course providers themselves, there are many issues to be worked through.

However, the present timeline shows we should expect final STARS capability to connect to NCVER in mid-2024, and STA and SMS connections to take place in late 2024. Training providers should not expect a wider sector transition and rollout until the year 2025.


The future of Australia’s data system

The final shape of the new, streamlined system is not entirely clear. For instance, it is not certain every state will be a part of the centralised STARS system, at least to start with.

But there is one thing for sure. ReadyTech has been a key player in this process from the very beginning. As the service provider to over 1,200 RTOs, three Victorian TAFEs, and Skills Canberra, the ACT’s STA, we have been viewing this as a critical change for our customers.

We are ready for this change. Through our internal ReadyTech Education Products Standards Committee (REPS), and our strong bench of education industry specialist technology teams, we are well prepared to adjust our systems, and help guide providers through the changes.

And the hope is, with data reported as activity takes place and by creating a consistent data standard, we will be able to gain more insight into what is happening in the system. We will be able to act – and react - with confidence, supporting our students into the future.

Learn more about ReadyTech's market-leading EdTech ecosystem of products and how we can support you to meet the new data standards here.