The Electronic Job Centre (eJobCentre)

Published on: 05/06/2007

In 2003, Malta's Employment and Training Corporation decided to revamp its ICT systems by moving towards a multi-channel self-service system. This system ensures that there is effective and automated communication amongst the various government institutions. From a government perspective, the project managed to achieve a number of firsts. It was the first project in Malta which promotes a self-service fully automated methodology; the first service to make use of biometrics in order to register autonomously a group of people on a weekly basis and it was also the first project to promote the idea of an electronic ID card. In fact, all the registered job seekers get an electronic ID which stores their own biometric information. The e-Jobcentre is also the first system which uses the e-Gov and m-Gov platforms to the full. No other European Employment agency operates a network of biometric self-service machines around the country in unmanned offices. This is important especially when dealing with scarce resources and clients in remote area. The machines we use are rather standard; our system can be easily adopted and scaled for larger countries.

Policy Context

On a local level, the ETC is a public corporation set up by an act of parliament, responsible for providing a public employment service, managing state-financed vocational training schemes and maintaining labour market information. In recent years, Malta’s government, embarked on various Information Society, eGovernment and mobile Government initiatives. Thus, there has been a constant drive towards innovating corporate services offered to customers. On a European level and in line with the Four Freedoms of the EU Law, the free movement of persons also include the free movement of workers. To facilitate this, and considering that the corporation forms part of the EURES network, a local EURES website was launched to help foreigners seeking employment in Malta and Maltese seeking work abroad. This is also in line with the ministerial declaration published after the Manchester meeting in 2005 whereby all ministers agreed to not only deploy eGovernment services but ensure that they really work to facilitate the life of the citizens. In 2000, the Lisbon Agenda was set up to help the EU’s member states reach full employment. This target was once again confirmed in the Lisbon Agenda’s Mid-term review. To help achieve this, there are the Employment Guidelines and the National Reform Programmes which directly influence the services offered by the corporation.

Description of target users and groups

The target group of the system includes all the jobseekers (registered unemployed, inactive, jobseekers already employed, etc), employers, social partners and the government. Another group which is entitled to use the services offered by the system includes all the employers, both local and foreign who are seeking employees.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The strategy adopted is pretty simple. We have a mission to reach everyone who needs our assistance and we can only do so if we speak the language which each and every person understands. That’s why we’re committed towards adopting multi channel strategies. At the same time, modern technology is also helping reducing our costs and making our delivery more effective. Multi-channelling is the primary reason why the system was built. The choice of channel is really left up to the client to choose, depending on which one best suite him/her. The only channel which all of the registered unemployed must use is the biometric self-service registration system, since this channel is provided free of charge to everyone in his/her home town and it guarantees the delivery of the messages sent by the corporation. In exceptional circumstances (such as when the registration unit cannot be reached by people suffering from mobility problems) another channel might be used instead.

Technology solution

The system may be considered beyond the state-of-the-art for two main reasons. First of all, it is the first system which manages to integrate automatically 8 different communication channels between itself and its clients whilst respecting the needs of different clients (Eg, the main website has been recognised by the Foundation for IT Accessibility). The second reason is that the e-JobCentre has the only biometric self-registration system in the world. No other public employment agency in any other country (to our knowledge) uses such a system. In fact, a similar system (but used for a completely different application) can be found in the most modern airports around the world where clients can check-in using a retina scan. This system has been tested for a number of years now, and it has proved to be popular with literate and also the 20% illiterate we have. The system is simple; its learning curve is almost inexistent and offers a rapid registration which only lasts a few seconds. Thanks to these systems, we are servicing millions of requests in an efficient way whilst reducing our costs.

Main results, benefits and impacts

e-JobCentre is a fully automated system which coordinates the communication between clients and staff of the corporation through 8 different communication channels. These channels include: - 23 self-service renewal units distributed around Malta and Gozo and located in unmanned premises. By using a magnetic card together with biometric identification, all the registered unemployed register every week and subsequently receive messages from us via the system. Every year, we are saving the wages of our employees and the cost of sending those messages via registered post. - Various emails are automatically sent on a daily basis to jobseekers (notifying them about new vacancies, etc), employers (acknowledgements, etc) and the government (updating the prime minister on the unemployment rate, etc). - Physical letters are also sent, but most of them are generated automatically overnight and sent to our internal post office via email. So rather than having everyone waste time on clerical work (printing, folding, inserting, etc), the service is being centralised thus saving us time and money. - The three ETC websites receive more than 60,000 visits a month thus servicing about 20% of the local working population. - The SMS system, on a daily basis, sends various alerts to about 5% of our registered unemployed and on a yearly basis to 1% of the local working population. - Each free phone receives around 600 calls a month. - The Law Enforcement Handheld Devices provide real time information to our officers thus helping them enforce the law. This system is helping the government save more than 17% of our expenses yearly. - The Web Service Link provides real time information to Government other entities (such as the Inland Revenue, etc) and EU entities (the EURES server). All these channels are being controlled by one system, the e-JobCentre. Since resources are scarce, we designed the original system to be automated requiring as little human intervention as possible. In fact, the team managing this system is composed of just 8 people. The cost cutting is occurring on recurrent costs and none of these costs are one-offs. Due to our obligations by law, we must comply with a high standard of service. Our approach is to seek alternative channels in order to try to reduce the costs associated with a service without impacting on the quality. When a new channel proves to be more expensive than an existing one, it is discarded. In the first year, the system saved the corporation 4 times the invested capital and in subsequent years, it is estimated that the corporation is saving 31% of its annual costs. The corporation not only heavily reduced its expenses (which used to include postage, manual labour, etc) but it is also offering an effective and efficient communication channel to its clients since information is reaching them instantly through reliable channels.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

From a European perspective since we form part of the EURES network, we have been promoting our system with our European partners. We have visited various countries (such as Austria, Sweden, Ireland, the United Kingdom, etc) with the intent of sharing our best practices. On the other hand, we receive various visits every year from several member states (Germany, Czech Republic, etc) and we always reserve some of their time to show them our system.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Technology can be used at any strata of society. When one considers that a substantial number of our registrants hardly know how to use a computer, one can become quite sceptical. But time showed us that people are very versatile and that if the changeover to a new computerised system is planned well, people will start using the new system. Lesson 2 - Technology can be used to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve the service given to clients. Our experience showed us that costs were reduced by at least 34% while our customers are receiving a service customised for their needs. More than that, when we need to reach them in order to offer them an opportunity of work, we can do it instantly. Gone are the days when letters were sent by post and took a couple of days to arrive (if they did arrive!). Lesson 3 - To achieve even greater results and benefits, government entities should connect together. Our web-service connection with the Social Security, Inland Revenue and the other entities, is saving the government thousands of euros. More than that, clients are being faced with a one-stop-shop whenever they need something from one of these connected entities.

Scope: National