The U.S. Census Bureau has increasingly turned to technology to prepare for and eventually conduct the 2020 census, and that digital focus has extended to the hiring of part-time employees at the agency.

According to an Aug. 19 Census Bureau blog post, the agency will hire more than 500,000 temporary and part-time employees for the decennial census through online applications for the first time.

The employees hired will also forego the traditionally massive files of paperwork used to do their jobs in favor of tablet-based forms and data collection.

“Everything used to be on paper,” said Burton Reist, assistant director for communications at the Census Bureau, in the blog post. “We had boxes and boxes of paper. Now it’s all mapped out on the phone.”

Because the census is conducted every 10 years, practices and tools used in each census can vary as the agency works to integrate new technologies available each decade.

The Census Bureau is looking to hire part-time employees to both work in regional offices and take to the streets to confirm addresses and collect in-person responses in their communities.

“These jobs can be a great second job, and we’re pitching them to students, bus drivers, teachers and others,” said Jeff Behler, regional director of the Census Bureau’s New York Regional Office, in the blog post. “You can work your 40-hour-per-week job and work for us on the weekends and be successful.”

The Census Bureau has been behind in hiring partnership specialists, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report, which explained that these specialists are essential to garnering the trust of the communities where they work.

The Census Bureau is also planning to hire fewer temporary employees than in years past by about a third, according to GAO, as the new option to respond to the census online is anticipated to reduce the need for in-person enumerators to conduct follow-up calls.

Currently, the agency is looking for workers to conduct canvassing operations to verify on-record addresses and will begin hiring census takers to visit individual homes beginning in early 2020.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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