A success story about California's innovative CalJOBS project.
The State of California Employment Development Department (EDD)
has been given the opportunity to reevaluate the means through
which public service information is provided. This paper discusses
work done by the EDD in the area of Internet-enabled public service systems.
The EDD built a high quality, cost-effective job search system for the
State of California. Called the California
Job Openings Browse System (CalJOBS), this project marks the cornerstone
of true industrial strength web application development.
The EDD team, using Borland's Object Pascal programming language
(Delphi) and low-overhead SQL links to Informix's SQL database,
O'Reilly and Associate's web server (WebSite Professional) and
HREF Tools Corporation's web development framework (WebHub), created
a solid, interactive, database-driven web site.
The sites powerful functionality is derived from its ability to:
The site's functionality is provided in a secure environment that
has been created by separating the database security from the
Internet application and implementing a captive browser using
EDD's goal is to offer Cal-JOBS at all 134 of its offices in California. By the time all offices are linked to the internet, EDD will have spent about $4 million to buy 2000 computers. Funding comes from savings in the costs it would have taken to retain the mainframe-based system, which is only accessible to EDD referral workers.
The old job matching system access is limited to EDD field office staff who perform all job opening entry, job seeker screening, and referrals. The new CalJOBS web site offers the greatest potential for EDD staff savings because it offers employers and job seekers self-help options. The Internet is an open system which allows employers and job seekers access to job services from their home, place of business, public school, library, or any place Internet access is provided.
Conceptualized as a method to share information, the initial pilot
was established to offer a comprehensive, integrated employer/job
seeker job service for all levels of positions, open to anyone
with Internet access. These services included:
Essentially, the CalJOBS pilot brings together employers and job seekers to exchange information about job openings and qualifications. The system also handles the administrative tasks of submitting completed job applications or resumes to the interested employer.
The Internet is an open environment that allows any system with a connection to directly communicate with other systems. This ease of connectivity allows communication between systems that were once isolated. The World Wide Web is the graphical user interface for the Internet. It is a simple interface organized by web pages that sit on top
of the code-based connections which make up the Internet. These
pages are seen through a browser application which allows the
viewer to see graphics, text, and electronic links to other pages.
The simplicity of the browser layer makes it possible for anyone,
regardless of computer skills, to easily access electronic information.
For this reason, the World Wide Web is the ideal environment for
EDD customers to access job services information without requiring
assistance or support from the department's own personnel.
The CalJOBS web site required much more than simple static information because each customer who would access the site (job seeker or employer) would need to either submit or retrieve specific information, tailored to his or her needs. The CalJOBS pilot needed to be connected to a searchable, amendable database and it needed to generate dynamic, user-specific web pages to match the particularities of any user's request. For example, if a person wanted to get a listing of available construction jobs, he or she could make a request for that information (drawn from a database) which would then be presented in a graphical format on the browser. If the person wanted to further define the search by entering his or her county, the original information would then be drilled down to include only those jobs offered in the county selected by the user.
Ordinary static web pages can be easily built using Hyper Text
Mark-up Language (HTML). This is the language that creates the
aesthetic appearance of the pages. However, in order to run the
kind of interactive database-driven applications required for
the CalJOBS site, the EDD had to use advanced programming logic.
After looking at many different tools, languages, and application
techniques, the development team chose two technologies that enabled
them to finally create a structured development framework. This
framework consisted primarily of Delphi and WebHub, and would
provide answers to all of the major challenges of building a database-driven,
interactive web site. With these object-oriented tools, the EDD
CalJOBS team developed the initial pilot web site in approximately
As with all web sites, the CalJOBS site continues to be improved and increased functionality added. In this pilot, the EDD united the employer and employee job search features, connected the web site to an independent client-server relational database, and developed the applications necessary to perform each of the basic job search and posting tasks. WebHub and the power of object-oriented programming gave EDD the solutions it needed to create a dynamic web site with enough expansion capacity and functionality to serve a high volume of users.
The EDD's first attempts at a prototype used client-side tracking of user data, but it was sorely limited. In late 1995, the EDD became aware of WebHub, which at that time was unique in providing server-side saving state as a built-in feature. Saving state is the ability to retain the user's identity throughout the session within a dynamic site. This prevents the user from having to provide the same information multiple times. The pilot, written with WebHub, maintains the user's result sets on the server side throughout the session thereby allowing complex drill down queries.
WebHub's architecture provided the EDD team with a scaleable solution
that reduced required computing resources and at the same time
improved the speed at which information is delivered to the customer.
The Hub distributes page requests to the least busy instance of
the program. Even though typical page requests require less than
a second to process, the anticipated volume of transactions for
the entire state of California could bring a fixed architecture
to its knees during peak usage.
Extreme modular scalability was the key solution to this problem. The CalJOBS pilot uses a "cluster" of 2 web servers which further distributes processing to multiple instances of the application for optimal performance of the transactions to a database server. Connecting more web servers and starting more instances of the application immediately increases the capacity of the system.
WebHub database publishing components simplified the process of providing quick response via queries over the web. Surfers are given a specified number of records in response to a query. WebHub keeps their answer available, enabling quick forward and backward scrolling.
Security and integrity of the database is maintained by allowing
it to operate independently from the Internet application. Borland's
Delphi allows the application to communicate to key client-server
relational databases such as Oracle, Informix, and SQL Server
with direct SQL-Links to any database that supports ODBC. The
CalJOBS pilot uses Informix.
WebHub and Delphi allowed the EDD to create a web site that would
interactively provide essential information to EDD customers in
a secure environment. The CalJOBS site operates as an extension
of the user's own personal computer. The CalJOBS pilot presents
an entirely new paradigm for public information distribution.
The CalJOBS application currently makes searches based on job title, skill words, or job categories. The CalJOBS application is very flexible and can be easily modified to capture additional data or provide added functionality. For example, the CalJOBS application can be tailored to search for entry level jobs so that data on education and experience need not be captured or used by the job matching process.
WebHub technology also provided EDD's team the ideal development environment since it allows separating the HTML from the SQL code. Development tasks could easily be divided up amongst staff. Unlike other web application tools that embed SQL code within the HTML document, WebHub keeps the HTML in separate files which are then collected at run time. The CalJOBS site allows for run-time changes in site appearance without stopping or recompiling the custom web application.
The production web site is housed in Sacramento at the Health
and Welfare Data Center (HWDC) which supports many California
government agencies. This pilot consists of 2 web servers and
a database server. The web servers are running Windows NT 3.51,
O'Reilly's WebSite Professional, HREF Tool's WebHub version 8.9,
and 5 instances of EDD's custom web application per web server
(written using Borland's Delphi 2.0 and HREF's WebHub components).
The database server is running Aix 4.1.4 and Informix 7.0.
Pilot Period (January 1997 to October, 1997)--This pilot program
will provide automated employment services for job seekers and
employers by introducing a full range of employment opportunities.
EDD offices in eight counties will participate in the pilot. The
counties are: Butte, Kern, Los Angeles, Placer, Sacramento, San
Bernardino, San Mateo and Ventura. Access to CalJOBS will be restricted
to employers and job seekers in the eight pilot counties. EDD
will allow access in the eight counties to partner organizations
such as Private Industry Council offices, Service Delivery Area
offices, community colleges, and the county welfare department
offices. From entry level jobs to senior management positions,
the CalJOBS pilot project will allow:
The CalJOBS Internet pilot project has realized custom application development for the web at the highest, most thoroughly tested level, the State government. This not only marks the successful implementation of a cutting edge technology, it also sets the standard for high quality, cost-effective government service programs. Using WebHub technology, EDD has merged desktop computing with the World Wide Web, allowing people to access custom database information easier than they could from their own personal computer. The CalJOBS project is an undeniable realization of something that has, until now, been exceedingly difficult to create: a dynamic, database-driven, enterprise-wide computer application for the World Wide Web.