My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

With one year until Census Day, more recommendations for the U.S. Census Bureau

With only 365 days to go before Census Day (April 1, 2010), continues our series on improving the U.S. Census Bureau’s hiring practices:

Problem 2: The Census Bureau’s field positions like “crew leader” are not filled by applicants who possess the proper skills for the job.

The Government Accountability Office’s 2007 report titled “2010 Census: Census Bureau should refine recruiting and hiring efforts and enhance training of temporary field staff” (hereafter referred to as the GAO 2007 Report) clearly states that the current system for hiring crew leaders does not produce employees with the proper skill sets needed for their jobs:

“The competencies needed by a crew leader were different from those required in other field positions. For example, while it was important for field staff working in the nonresponse follow-up operation to have arithmetic and visual identification skills, crew leaders need skills such as management, leadership, and creative thinking. Bureau officials stated that crew leaders are also responsible for providing on-the-job training where necessary and will accompany workers who are facing problems. Further, with the reengineering of the 2010 Census, crew leaders are responsible for troubleshooting the handheld computers that other field staff uses to collect census data.

We reviewed the Bureau’s hiring tools during the 2006 test and found that they do not differentiate between crew leaders and other field positions. Bureau officials said they do not expect to revise these tools for the 2010 Census because the selection guide used during phone interviews has two sets of questions for the crew leaders. However, these two sets of questions do not specifically ask whether applicants have experience in providing training or using computers. One set of questions asked candidates if they were familiar with the area in which they live and the second set of questions asked about their leadership experiences and willingness to lead others. Officials told us that the selection tools the Bureau plans to use in the 2010 Census will be largely unchanged from those used in Census 2000 and the 2004 and 2006 tests.”

In an era where Google Maps can depict every structure in America using satellite photos, “familiarity” with specific streets and neighborhoods is unnecessary for crew leaders. The Census Bureau should instead hire crew leaders based on the aforementioned management, leadership, and creative thinking skills necessary to successfully complete the decennial headcount.

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