Government Web sites have been reasonably popular for some time. The White House , Thomas and others have gone a long way toward introducing government information to citizens on the Internet. Users' expectations are rising and citizens are understandably beginning to expect that services will be delivered online. The America's Job Bank (AJB) is a Web-delivered job service directory that is also redefining government Web sites.
In the most recent survey from Point Communications, which rates Internet sites on content and presentation, AJB was the fifth most visited site on the Web. On January 19, the day of my visit to the AJB service center, the site received nearly 150,000 hits and had been averaging about 125,000 hits per day and over 3 million hits per month for some time. PC Magazine in their listing of the Top 100 Web Sites said: "Unlike most seasoned, crotchety organizations, the over-60-year-old public employment service has adapted to the times and technologically reinvented itself." Magellan, another Internet rating service, gives AJB four stars across the board -- their highest possible rating.
What AJB delivers is a network of job opportunity listings from over 1,800 job service and employment service offices throughout the country. There are currently position listings from all 50 states plus the Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico. In 1994, there were over 600,000 jobs listed. Positions listed are not limited to technology-related professions, however, 46 percent of the positions listed are professional, technical and managerial. Most of the jobs are full-time positions and are predominantly in the private sector.
The New York State Department of Labor operates AJB for the U.S. Department of Labor. The AJB service has been in existence since 1979 and was introduced to the Internet in March 1995. According to Roger Freestone, director of AJB, job listings have grown from under 1,500 when the system was introduced, to over 250,000 today. "There are currently 23 states with Internet applications. By linking to those sites we're able to expand the job listing beyond those sent to us by the job service offices. By July, we hope to have as many as 30 states linked and over 400,000 job listings online per day. Our goal is to get the AJB database to include the nearly one million jobs available throughout the country," said Freestone. He added, "Our Web site now allows employers to list jobs directly on AJB which gives them nearly immediate exposure."
The way the system works is when employers list opportunities with their local employment service agency, the position is added to the statewide computer network. Those jobs can be passed on to AJB for nationwide listing. New jobs and updated listings are downloaded into the AJB's IBM mainframe each night for posting the following day. Job listings include a job description, education, skill and experience requirements, location of the job and salary information when it is provided. The service is free to employers and job-seekers.
New York State Labor Commissioner John E. Sweeney said when announcing the Internet version of AJB, "By linking America's Job Bank with the Internet, we are taking a step that has considerable potential for a wide variety of applications in the future." He added, "The information highway will be nothing but a collision course for anyone who is not prepared. The state Labor Department is on that highway, and we intend to go the distance by expanding the kinds of services we provide and by making them as valuable as possible to New York businesses and workers."
The AJB Internet connection is provided by NYSERNet (New York State Educational Resource Network) , as are a number of custom-built search tools that help make the Internet version of AJB so powerful. According to Denis Martin, director of Information Services for NYSERNet, there are over 45,000 lines of code written
to execute the download function and the online search attributes. "We're serving AJB with an Intel-based 120 Mhz server running BSD. I think the most interesting function is the employer input section. There is a user ID and access code required for employers to add job listings. This allows AJB the ability to encourage remote participation and control the accuracy and cleanliness of the data," he said.
Job seekers can conduct a nationwide search or specify a particular state's job listings. Entering the database, interested citizens can do a self-directed search or use military occupational specialty codes or job codes to start their search. A self-directed search allows the user to limit the job listings to a particular job category like professional, managerial, sales, production, clerical, etc. By answering a few questions at each prompt, the user burrows down in the database to get specific job listings.
The popularity of the AJB Web service is easy to understand after a visit to the site. Searches are simple, intuitive and deliver impressive results. Keeping a Web site supplied with valuable and fresh information is often cited as the key to delivering effective services on the Web. AJB has hit on the formula for success.
Michael Nevins is a co-founder and director of State Technologies Inc., a nonprofit research group. State Technologies publishes the Web service Government On Line: http://www.gol.org
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