Civil Service jobs API: five years in the making

Five years ago – to the very minute, as it happens! – I was working on a proposal to put to someone at the Cabinet Office. I was still working at ONS, and was trying to think of a clever way to handle our job adverts. We were obliged to post details of all vacancies into the (very recently departed) Civil Service Recruitment Gateway website. So I thought, what if that site could feed our vacancies back to us?

I approached the Cabinet Office with a proposal to not only help them spec up the work, but to pay for it. I’ve still got the PowerPoint slides I produced for the ‘pitch’.

Click to view slide-by-slide

Five years ago, this was truly visionary stuff – in effect, an open API on all government jobs, way beyond anything that had been done before. And even though I’d documented the whole thing, even though I was putting up the money myself for them to do it, to build a function for everyone to use freely… it never happened. An all too familiar story. So it’s especially amusing to see Steph’s news, exactly five years on, of Civil Service jobs, your way.

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.

Now admittedly, my proposal was a modest affair based on a straight-down-the-line RSS feed. There were few specific references to XML, never mind API, and certainly not RDFa. But reading Steph’s piece, and the ensuing comments, I can see a direct line between my 2004 proposal – which, let’s be honest, is ancient history in online terms – and today’s unveiling. If you ever wanted a precise metric for how slowly government moves, there it is.

Regardless of the history, it’s an excellent piece of work by the Cabinet Office team; and – I hope – having done the donkey work to set it up, someone is ready to take it to market, and make people aware of what the service can do for them. Some relatively straightforward PHP or ASP would be enough to put an automated list of all current vacancies on each department’s own homepage; perhaps the Cabinet Office team could go a step further, and deliver it via a Javascript-to-PHP call (as the LibDems do for their ‘campaign buttons‘), making it child’s-play for the recipient site. The requirement to obtain an API key doesn’t help their cause, though.

3 thoughts on “Civil Service jobs API: five years in the making”

  1. 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…..

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