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Civil Service jobs, your way

The Cabinet Office has recently relaunched its Civil Service website and job search function, including a little ‘Developers‘ page tucked away in the footer. That page describes a rather lovely little API which lets anyone – with a freely-available key – retrieve a list of departments, vacancies and vacancy descriptions, including RDFa markup to the emerging government standard.

So the site’s job search function lets you search by keyword, region, or department. But what if you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of the latest jobs for a particular department? Or get an email alert of new jobs matching certain keywords? Since the database is open, you don’t need to wait for the Cabinet Office to provide these useful services – you can just build your own.

gjd_results

I’m not a hardcore developer, but in a few hours I’d managed to come up with a rough experimental service to:

  • List all jobs from a given department
  • Generate an RSS feed of jobs from any specific department (the site itself lets you get a feed of all new jobs, and there’s a high volume Twitter account you can follow)
  • Get an email alert, based on the site’s RSS feed, for new jobs which contain certain keywords

Given the enduring popularity of job search online, this is an exciting development for a major government data set. It should provide something which third party developers can use to derive valuable commercial services to their customers, as well as helping to ensure Government broadens the reach of its recruitment at lower cost, facilitating the creation of innovative new services based on public data. With luck, it’s the business case for APIs to government data that we’ve been looking for.

The best bit? It’s the result of the excellent work of Mizan Syed and colleagues from the Cabinet Office in-house eMedia team, bringing COI’s new RDFa standard for markup to life. Nice work, guys!

  1. Five years ago – to the very day, would you believe! – I put a paper to the Cabinet Office asking them to provide an RSS interface into the Civil Service Recruitment Gateway database, and even offering to pay for it out of my own budget (I was still at ONS). It went nowhere. Or did it? :)

  2. @simon: Who knows. The trouble is, so few people within government understand this or why you might want to do it (‘What? And lose all that traffic?’), that it never seems like a priority worth spending money on. In this example, a lot came down to a small number of people – well two or three Cabinet Office guys I can think of – with the skills and vision to make it happen. It’s hard to see how little APIs like this would be built and launched in most organisations with outsourced IT and web functions.

  3. Steph,

    Just want to thank you for flagging this up and for the beta-testing you did for during the development, even at late nights.

    Mizan

  4. thanks Steph…

    lots of learning from this project. A year ago, I had to do some serious homework to be able to sell the RDFa and the API idea that David Pullinger and John Sheridan were espousing. I’m glad I did, but it was the legwork pursuading the HR types and the great direction from Esther and the Civil Serice recruitment team that swung this in the end. The lesson here is that the technical solution alone isn’t what makes the difference. It’s people bringing their various skills to bear – and the joy for me in this particular result is that.

  5. Absolutely Alex. For data to be opened up, you need a surprising amount of vision and courage behind the scenes from the data owners – and it’s great you were able to make that happen here.

    The challenge is to broaden awareness and adoption of the great work David and his team have commissioned, so that jobbing web managers (excuse the pun) can easily work out what it means for them, their CMS, their templates. And there’s still a lot of work to be done with policy and comms teams to argue why open data is a good thing. Maybe there’s some case study material here both at a business and technical level?

  6. Simon,

    5 years and a bit of progress. Don’t worry as up north we have 8 year pilots and counting ( and the worst offender has spent > £ 50,000,000 to get there )

    When governments need to innovate, it seems to take them a long time ( as essentially they are monopoly providers and if they moved too quickly, what would the staff do ? ). Hence this apparent sloth

    When governments need to save the banks, they can dither, and then move very quickly indeed

    What all governments have failed to show us is that they are a credible source of leadership for e.g.
    a) climate change
    b) education

    but that they are spectacularly good at delaying decisions on
    a) nuclear power
    b) pension provision across the economy
    c) enactment of equal pay

    What we need them to do now is
    a) recognise the challenge, say sorry and take some hard decisions
    b) open the doors to innovation, agile behaviours and SMEs
    c) re-deploy some of the current government folks to the social industries where they are needed e.g. care for elderly ; social work ; mental health and
    d) create work for those on the dole ( and the internet means jobs can be on a PC but you can stay at home so labour mobility is not such an issue )

    Let’s check this post in 2014 on March 18th…..

    This comment was originally posted on Puffbox.com

  7. Steph great post – just came across your blog via Information World Review article by Tony Hirst well he did say your blog is ‘inspriational’ which for someone in government must be somewhat unique.

    Just posted a link to my Facebook account for what its worth.

    Congrats.
    Nick

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