Workers to count on

Sharon Connelly had been unemployed for four years when she was hired as

a temporary worker at the Census Bureau's Baltimore data capture center.

The center is one of three temporary sites — along with Phoenix, Ariz.,

and Pomona, Calif. — established by the bureau to handle the massive amounts

of information coming in from Census 2000.

Connelly quickly rose from data-entry clerk to supervisor, overseeing workers

with little or no job experience. "One of my employees is still in [high]

school," she said. Two others have little job experience and speak English

as a second language, she said.

The high school student will leave in August to attend college, but many

others — like Connelly — will stay until their jobs close out. All will

be out of work by December. Already, as the workload has begun to wane,

two rounds of layoffs have trimmed the temporary work force. At each temporary

site, about 2,000 workers have been let go, leaving about 2,500.

But as part of the Census program, the workers received outplacement

training that exposed them to resume writing and the use of word processing

and spreadsheet programs, said Patty Nataro, the Census 2000 project director

for Troy Systems Inc. In addition, the contracted employers have set up

job fairs.

"I think we gave people basic workplace skills," said Hank Beebe, the Census

2000 program manager at TRW Inc. "And of course, they'll take these skills

away with them when they go to their next job."

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