Eric Torgerson is senior site manager for the Pearl Interactive call center

Eric Torgerson is senior site manager for the Pearl Interactive call center in Tempe, a key place where East Valley residents can find well-paying jobs working on the upcoming Census. 

Across the East Valley and the rest of Maricopa County, 2020 Census recruiters are gearing up to fill more than 30,000 well-paying federal jobs in data processing, call-centers and out in the field.

For “census junkies” – or people who want federal government job experience on their resume – East Valley census field offices, at full employment capacity, will hire about 1,300 field workers and managers by March, said Ryan Winkle, East Valley and South Phoenix area census office manager.

“The census is one of the only constitutionally mandated jobs with the exception of the military,” said Winkle. “The census affects all federal funding that comes to the state and there are two really big outcomes that touches every person.”

The U.S. Constitution mandates the census be taken every 10 years to count all people living in the country. 

Answers to 2020 Census questions will influence policy-making and planning for the next decade. 

The data impacts the number of U.S. House of Representatives seats in each state and affects legislatures’ redistricting. It also dictates how billions of dollars in federal funds will be spent by state and local governments.

According to iCount 2020, for each person counted in Mesa, the state receives $3,195 yearly for 10 years for vital services including schools, emergency services, hospitals and roads. 

Maricopa County will be the hub for one of two National Decennial Processing Centers. The center will process paper census forms for the western half of the country.

In Tempe, Pearl Interactive call-center is one of 10 call-centers in the U.S. taking calls in English from telephone and internet referrals, assisting census takers across the country.

Beginning on National Census Day, April 1, for the first time in U.S. history, 2020 census takers will be able to answer questions via phone or  internet if they choose not to participate with the traditional mail-in paper questionnaire. 

The 2020 Census is supporting 14 different languages.

That’s especially important in the East Valley, where a growing number of non-English speaking residents from either Latino, Asian and/or Asian-Pacific countries have made their home.

Census applicants who speak foreign languages, including Native American languages, are a high priority for these communities.

Maricopa County’s multicultural diversity can create additional work when finding such specialized Census workers, said Jeffrey Robbins, 2020 Census Administrator for the City of Mesa. 

Despite language barriers, there is also an education deficit in various communities as well. 

Both Robbins and Winkle said for the past two years, it has been vital to the success of the 2020 Census count to strategize and develop multi-platform media campaigns involving community partnerships with local census task force committees to touch every population of the community.

Winkle, who also works with the Asian Chamber of Commerce, said recruiting events have been planned for people who speak Asian languages and eligible candidates will be signed up on the spot for field jobs. 

NPC and the call-center will keep track of homes tagged as “not counted” by June 2020.

In the Phoenix area, NPC is hiring upwards of 600 clerks to manage paper census forms for the western half of the United States. 

These positions will last through December 2020, when a final count is due to the federal Census Bureau.

“We are one of only two census processing centers in the country. It’s kind of a big deal Arizona was chosen,” said Cynthia Duncan, recruiter for Decennial Operations Branch – West. The other center is in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Duncan anticipates about 30 million paper forms will be processed between the two sites.

In Arizona, officials are expecting to process about 16 million census paper forms. 

The Pearl Interactive call-center in Tempe will be hiring 746 federal call-center representatives, and has already hired about 200 employees set for training, said Eric Torgerson, senior site manager.

The call-center is responsible for servicing all of the U.S. by assisting census takers in completing questionnaires. 

The most overwhelming response for employment, Torgerson said, has come from the in-house Pearl Interactive weekly job fairs.

He said people who walk-in or RSVP could be hired and processed in less than two hours, including federal background checks and fingerprinting.

Most applying online can RSVP and set an interview time for expeditious processing. 

 “Our niche in Arizona has been veterans who want to get back into the workforce,” he said. “We are also having success with our over 55 communities in Mesa.” 

Pearl has been working with local senior centers and organizations to recruit people who just want to get out of the house and work part-time shifts.  

“The only negative thing about this work is it ends,” he said, adding Pearl Interactive is trying to figure out a way these newly trained data and call-center employees can continue employment once the census work is completed. 

“We will have thousands of people out of work” when the Census ends, he said.

 Currently, Pearl Interactive is looking to partner with companies, such as American Express and Discover Card, that might be ramping up employment opportunities at the time the census work comes to an end so the transition to a new job opportunity is seamless.