Getting the Skills First claiming right for your RTO is a balance of accurate data entry, compliance and navigation of the SVTS. 

At times it can feel like a frustrating, overwhelming and even frightening responsibility, but with the right knowledge and systems, you can improve the quality of your data, save time and ensure that everything is claimed. 

As an added bonus, your manager will be off your back and you’ll be able to sleep at night!

So here are our top ten tips for managing the claiming for your Skills First contract:

TIP 1 | Know your source documents

You need to have a comprehensive working knowledge of the documents listed below - we like to joke that you should memorise them word by word! 

But seriously, you have to know the contents of these documents well enough that you can comply with them and refer back to them when guidance is required. 

It’s ok to skim read or scan, as long as you identify the parts that need to be read and applied in detail now or may need to be referenced in the future.

  1. Funding Contract
  2. SVTS User Guide
  3. Relevant memos/notifications/guides/contract variations from the Department which are usually available on SVTS or emailed directly to the RTO Manager (make sure these are forwarded to you)
  4. Victorian VET Student Statistical Collection Guidelines
  5. Student Management System (SMS) Guides
  6. Standards for RTOs (ASQA) 
  7. User Guide to the Standards for RTOs (ASQA)
TIP 2 | Induction training for everyone

As RTOs, we believe in the investment of time and energy now in training for future results. As Benjamin Franklin said:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

So, make sure that you and everyone at your RTO who is involved with providing data such as training delivery or results, entering data, uploading data and checking data is trained thoroughly when they start their role.

Don’t assume because it’s easy for you, they’ve come from another RTO or that they don’t ask questions, means that new team members don’t need training. 

Write step by step work instructions for each process, no matter how simple, and keep these updated when things change. These instructions need to be simple to understand and include screenshots so that people will actually use them.

Encourage accuracy over speed when it comes to record keeping and data entry.

As part of the training, ensure that everyone understands the importance of accurate and timely data. When it comes to Skills First claiming, data isn’t just entered into your system for the sake of keeping accurate records. The data generates claims which directly impact on your RTO’s cash flow and revenue. People need to understand this.

We know that training takes time and that you’re busy, but it’s vital that you don’t skip this step.

TIP 3 | Find the cause

When an inaccuracy, error, reject or warning is discovered, it’s tempting to just fix it and move on. In the short term, the problem is solved.

However, to save time and potentially worse problems in the future, find out the cause of the problem.

Has there been a change made by your software vendor, a change to the SVTS guidelines, a misunderstanding by a team member or has someone lost a crucial document?

Once the problem is identified, you can put steps in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. For example provide more training, read SMS version release notes, update some work instructions etc. 

TIP 4 | Systems

Be vigilant in checking that all the required tasks are being completed on time, that the data is accurate and that SVTS warnings and errors are being resolved.

We like to call this the RTO equivalent of being alert but not alarmed!

These checks will be different for each RTO but some examples include:

  • Doing spot checks to ensure that the data in your SMS matches the source document
  • Running reports in your SMS that could identify potential errors eg. you could check the number of hours assessed by each trainer and investigate any that seemed very high or low
  • Running a report about student’s ages or home addresses - is there anything that seems odd?
  • Keeping a daily record of how many warnings are showing in SVTS

Be systematic, curious and skeptical when conducting these regular quality checks. If something doesn’t seem right, investigate it and resolve it.

TIP 5 | Ongoing professional development

If you’ve been doing your role for a while, it’s easy to become complacent and think that you pretty much know everything that’s required to produce an accurate claim for your RTO each month.

However, things change and new requirements are put in place by the government authorities constantly so it’s important to keep up with professional development.

It goes without saying that we would recommend our AVETMESS webinars (forgive us for the shameless plug :-)) for SVTS reporting, contract and other related professional development.

Other ways of staying up to date professionally are through reading emails and attending events from the Department, ASQA, your SMS provider and other RTO professional bodies.

Keep moving forward professionally to avoid going backwards.

TIP 6 | Routines and schedules

The only possible way to have it ALL is with structure and the discipline to keep to it, to make it a routine. (Margot Hattingh)

If you want it all (accurate data, no errors, no missed claiming etc), you will have to have routines and schedules that are repeated consistently. For RTO compliance and admin people, routines aren’t something to be looked down upon as boring - they are lifesavers!

Design your routines to work around the Skills First data deadlines, meetings you need to attend, colleagues work schedules etc.

Have schedules in place for when you will complete each task, enter certain types of data, check SVTS, upload data, finalise data reporting etc.

Having routines and schedules helps minimise unwelcome surprises, supports you to feel under control, improves your efficiency and empowers you to manage your time well and accomplish everything that needs to be done.

TIP 7 | Team responsibilities - Divide & conquer

In most RTOs, claiming is a joint effort and many hands make light work, but only if everyone knows what they need to do and when they need to do it by.

You may not be responsible for employing staff however it is important that there are sufficient people to collect and record training information, enter this data into the SMS, upload it to SVTS, resolve errors etc etc. Speak to your manager if this is a problem area.

Regularly meet with your colleagues and as a whole team to discuss any challenges being faced with claiming, upcoming deadlines, new ideas for making procedures simpler or easier etc.

TIP 8 | Plan for the unexpected

There’s one thing for sure when it comes to claiming and that’s that change and challenges are inevitable. The best way to deal with this is to expect it and to plan ahead.

Although you can’t anticipate every “plot twist” and crisis, you can rely on experience and common sense to anticipate likely scenarios, what the impact is likely to be and to prepare.

Here are some examples of problems you might face:

  • Unexpected SVTS errors reduce your expected claim or stop it processing completely
  • Your SMS (student management system) or the internet goes down just before a deadline
  • A trainer is ill and unable to provide you information about the training they’ve delivered

Think about what you would need to put in place to prevent, minimise the impact of, or resolve these situations:

  • Phone numbers or contact methods for the Department, your software vendor, IT support, RTO consultant, experienced colleagues. 
  • Allow sufficient time to meet deadlines - consider creating a false earlier deadline for yourself so that if something goes wrong, there is still time to resolve it and meet the actual, real deadline.
  • Have the documents listed in Tip 1 handy, either in paper or electronic form, so that you can refer to them quickly.
TIP 9 | Face the facts

As we said earlier, it’s normal for things to go wrong sometimes when it comes to claiming.  

When something happens, whether it’s your fault or not, confront the problem head on and resolve it as quickly as possible.

Be open and transparent with your manager and your team about any data and claiming challenges. They will be able to support you as you work through the issue, may be able to provide suggestions or point you in the direction of someone that can assist.

Ignoring the problem or error won’t make it go away and it may even get worse. Facing the facts and getting a handle on the issue early is the best policy.

TIP 10 | Systems

You must have systems in place to ensure that all the work required to achieve accurate and timely claiming is done. 

Not only does the work need to be done but to be efficient and reliable every time, the work needs to be done in the same way each day, week, month or year.

Once you and your colleagues have designed the systems that control how Skills First data will be collected, entered, checked, uploaded etc and by whom, write policies and procedures that document this.

We talked about work instructions in Tip 2 but these are different to policies and procedures:

  • Policies say what you are going to do. For example: This RTO will accurately report all training Skills First data to the Department in a timely manner.
  • Procedures document how you will achieve the policy step by step. For example, trainers will mark attendance record and email it to the admin team, admin coordinator will enter training deliver from attendance record into the SMS etc
  • Work instructions are the detailed instructions of how to do each of the steps. For example, what menu in the SMS to go to, which buttons to push, what data to enter where in the system.

Once you have your systems in place for managing Skills First data, you can work on improving them over time. Make the systems as simple as possible and automate them wherever possible to reduce workloads and human error.

So keep up the great work that you’re already doing with your Skills First Claiming - it’s an important job and we really appreciate the dedication and commitment it takes to fulfil this role.

If you have other tips that you think we should add to this list for optimising your Skills First data processes, comment below and let us know.

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