GAO: Census needs to update management of temp workers

Census Bureau Should Refine Recruiting and Hiring Efforts and Enhance Training of Temporary Field Staff (.pdf)

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The Census Bureau needs to evolve from its decade-old hiring practices and training programs or face problems with managing temporary workers in the upcoming 2010 census, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The report states that the bureau will need to improve hiring tools to recruit a more reliable pool of nearly 600,000 temporary census enumerators, whose roles include collecting addresses in the field and following up with people who don’t respond.

Currently, the bureau uses surveys and tests to screen applicants, the same method it used for the 2000 census. GAO wants the bureau to find data to predict the likely success of an applicant to avoid losing workers in the middle of a project. The oversight agency also wants performance metrics for their census workers.

Census officials were quoted in the report as saying that they “have not invested resources into making recruiting and hiring more effective.”

GAO said narrowing the pool of temporary workers would also save money. The bureau estimates that it will spend $2.35 billion out of the estimated $11.3 billion the agency expects for the 2010 census on recruiting and training those temporary workers.

Census officials said most of their resources, budget and effort have been focused on the modernization of the census-taking process into a paperless system for 2010.

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