Census Bureau Official says Senator Schumer Was Misled: The Truth About Census Jobs
MyTwoCensus has received a contribution from a Census Bureau official (verified to make sure this person is for real but with her full anonymity protected) that will serve as a response to our recent story from Indiana:
Several weeks ago, I was in a test session where an applicant told me that he heard about the census from an announcement by Senator Chuck Schumer on the nightly news. The Senator said the work would pay pretty well and go anywhere from ten weeks to six to eight months. The applicant was nonetheless shocked when I handed him this piece of paper which said that the test he took was for work lasting only one to three weeks…(SEE ABOVE DOCUMENT)
As there is much confusion, I thought I’d write this letter to clarify some misconceptions. The first myth is the census will begin hiring in early 2010 which has some truth to it. There will be several smaller operations and a small number of office positions but the number of jobs is neglible (less than 5%).
The majority of jobs will be in May 2010 for the Non-Response Followup operation where enumerators will knock on people’s doors and ask them to fill out a questionnaire. The second myth is that the jobs last anywhere from ten weeks to six to eight months. According to this sheet of paper, it will last up to three weeks. In fact the embarrassing part is no one really knows how long the job will last.
However from November 2009 to April 2010 the Census Bureau is on a mission to recruit tens of thousands of people based upon a model they will need five applicants for every one position:
* because one person will decline the position (doubt it, the unemployment rate is in double digits)
* one won’t show up to training (doubt that will happen for god’s sake the unemployment has been the worst in any census in a half a century)
* one won’t complete training or pass the test (they assume the applicant pool is inherently dumb which isn’t true because of the high caliber of applicants in the recession)
* and one will quit the first week (ok that might happen if you don’t like getting the door slammed in your face)
Based on my experience I can tell you we have had very high test scores, few job refusals and high retention of staff. If this continues it will result in many people not getting hired. The Census Bureau is wasting money recruiting all these people for a small number of jobs. It needs to rethink this ridiculous model because as we all know they already made the startling admission that their cost estimation models are completely inadequate (just look at address canvassing and group quarters validation).
Most areas are already meeting their recruiting goals but we have trouble recruiting in more affluent neighborhoods of New York. In typical census fashion when goals aren’t being met they throw bodies at it and hope it improves. They hire recruiting assistants (RAs) based off a test score and ask yes/no questions during the interview. You answer yes to all the questions you get the job. Every week they hire more recruiting and partnership assistants. There is no organization, they just ask you to take a whole bunch of brochures and cards and give them out in the hopes you will get people to take the test.
Everyone has the same ideas: visit church groups, public housing, non-profit organizations so there is duplication of work. When the recruiting goals aren’t being met RCC intimidates and offers little constructive help. There are regional technicians who just go around and tell us we’re not recruiting enough people…(especially this short Asian guy with a Napoleon complex and some guy who snoozes during meetings). They don’t seem to understand that no one wants to take a test for the possibility of a job a few months from now, lasting only one-three weeks for $18.75 an hour which barely pays the exorbitant rents of $3,500 a month. More test sessions are scheduled and more clerks are hired but the phones don’t ring anymore than they did last week. Judging by the way they do recruiting you think this is the first time they are doing this. But they’ve been doing this since the first census in 1790. (okay maybe they didn’t have to recruit workers on horseback but it seems like an amateur operation).
Track recruiting efforts by putting a unique code (corresponding to each RA) on each brochure so there is an incentive everything they hand out results in someone applying…And while they are at it someone should reevaluate this model which I know is wrong. They need to stop throwing needless money away to recruit people who won’t even get called. The model is get as many bodies to take the test, offer a small percentage of them jobs and tell them it will last eight weeks. Then headquarters realizes there isn’t any work, other areas are working faster and they are running out of money.
In order to save themselves embarrassment they will rush the operation because the quicker they finish the better they look and the less money they have to spend. Get the hopes up of thousands of unemployed Americans who need work to put food on the table. Rinse and repeat.
So if anyone is listening to me. We don’t need more people, we just need better workers, better leadership and a more realistic recruiting model. Perhaps this recruiting speech might be more fit:
Hi I’m a recruiting assistant with the United States Census Bureau. We’re offering jobs in your community, as an RA I can’t tell you how long the jobs will last. The jobs may last eight weeks, but will probably be more like one to three weeks. I actually don’t know because our leaders at Census Bureau headquarters don’t know either. I do know you will need to take a basic skills test in reading comprehension, math skills and reasoning. However if you don’t get a perfect score and you’re not a veteran you may not get hired. On a lasting note you will make good money for a few weeks, then headquarters will realize they overestimated the workload, over staffed the operation and are running out of money. To make themselves look good they will probably tell you to work faster, do a haphazard job or risk being terminated. Are you still interested in a job?