Web search could yield a job

The Labor Department employment service's World Wide Web site registers 23.5 million
hits a month. States are clamoring to get their Web pages posted, the number of employers
posting job openings grows daily, and job seekers are turning to AJB in droves.


For 15 years, until November 1994, Labor operated AJB in the same way: States
transferred job data in local format via Remote Job Entry/Network Job Entry, an IBM Corp.
mainframe protocol, to Labor's MVS system.


Daily batch processing built state listings to the national aggregate. The aggregated
data resided on the MVS system and was replicated daily to the national aggregate, stored
in flat files on the MVS system.


States retrieved the aggregated database via RJE. Job seekers could do an online search
of that database using the Automated Labor Exchange (Alex), a CICS application, by dialing
an 800 telephone number.


Labor staff saw the increase in Internet access as a new communications opportunity but
one that came with a big price tag: TCP/IP on the mainframe would cost $100,000.


"We'd been in the processing business at the state level for many years, but we
knew nothing about Internet technology-we were old mainframe hands," said John Novak,
deputy director of Labor's AJB Service Center. "So we had to find somebody who could
do something about it."


That somebody was NyserNet Inc. of Great Neck, N.Y.


"The first challenge was they had no vision of where they were going," said
Denis Martin, NyserNet's senior director of software engineering. "But that was good,
because it gave us a chance to say, 'Let's start from scratch.' "


NyserNet added an IBM RS/6000 running AIX, which let job seekers Telnet to the RS/6000
via the Internet.


The RS/6000 communicated with mainframe Alex via a 3270 terminal session using IBM's
HCON. It sent job seekers a screen scrape of the data they had requested.


With the public's Web use burgeoning, Labor and NyserNet moved quickly. "In two
weeks we made a Web version," Martin said.


The national aggregate was compiled nightly and transferred to the RS/6000 over an HCON
terminal session. An automated File Transfer Protocol process moved the database over the
Internet to the Web server. Job seekers then could access AJB via the Web in addition to
Telnet access to mainframe Alex.


In June 1995, Labor and NyserNet began offering states their own AJB pages. Initially,
only a couple of states took advantage of the offer. Today the number is 35 and growing.


Participating states produced local data in the batch output format and sent it via the
Web to the RS/6000, eliminating costly RJE network fees.


Employer-sent listings for each state were integrated into individual state databases
via the Web Server. To handle the new traffic, NyserNet upgraded the Web server to an
Alpha 400.


For each state, NyserNet mounted a Web page that looks like the state's own Web site
and is linked to that site. Anyone visiting the state site is unaware that the page is
hosted on the AJB server.


Using a password, states also could extract their individual databases, complete with
employer-sent jobs, via the Web.


"When we started, it was more of a let's-take-a-shot-at-this kind of thing,"
Novak said. "We had no idea it would grow the way it did."


Employers noticed that growth and asked Labor for a way they could directly add their
job listings.


Access for employers required re-engineering the process from the ground up, Martin
said. It took two months, but by November 1995, the system was up and running.


The first step was replacing flat files in the database with a table structure built in
Oracle Corp.'s Oracle7.


Next, NyserNet wrote an application to let small business fill out an online form via
the Web. For large employers, it wrote an electronic data interchange-like process file
for automated transfers. Large companies such as IBM were able to batch-process their
files and send them via the Web.


Initially, a Sun Microsystems Inc. Sparcstation 20 stored the Oracle7 database of job
listings from large and small employers. After three months, traffic on the system
demanded the larger Digital Equipment Corp. Alpha 400.


In April 1996, NyserNet again updated the Web server, this time to a Digital Alpha
4100.


In the two and a half years since the update began, AJB's communication system has
advanced from clunky, workable and expensive to smooth, efficient and cheap. The Internet
connection is saving states the cost of RJE sessions: about $7,000 per month, said Roger
Freestone, AJB director.


Labor's partners and its customers like the new system.


A federal law requires companies that get federal funding to list job openings with a
public employment service, Novak said. 'Those companies with automated human resources
systems find it expensive to print the job information out on paper, then rekey it. This
initiative speaks to that very well."


Scout will communicate with job seekers by e-mail. Anyone who doesn't have e-mail will
be given a public access e-mail account, which will work only for Scout, Martin said.


Talent Bank will debut by year's end. The Bank will be an integrated database of job
seekers' resumes and employers' job openings, and will notify both groups when it makes a
match.


Part of Labor's goal is to make business more cost-effective, Novak said. Cutting the
time it takes a job seeker to get a job and the time it takes an employer to find an
employee does that.


Response has been favorable but anecdotal, Novak said. Labor's next task is to find
better ways to analyze the response, he said.


Visit America's Job Bank at http://www.ajb.dni.us/.


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