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Serco hiring 1,100 more at Rogers process center

By Cyd King

This article was published October 22, 2013 at 12:45 a.m.

Dustin Breedlove, from Rogers, fills out an application for employment with Serco North America on a computer in the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services Rapid Response unit, an RV equipped with multiple application stations, while it was making a stop at the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary's in Rogers on Monday.

ROGERS - Serco Inc. on Monday began round two in its hiring of upward of 1,800 employees for a federally funded mail center that takes in applications for health insurance.

The company is seeking 1,100 new employees to join 700 already working at the Virginia-based company’s operation in Rogers - the only one in Arkansas and one of four in the country being set up and staffed to process incoming correspondence for those wishing to sign up for new medical plans under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The number of employees in Rogers is climbing much higher than the 800-1,000 total jobs predicted for the facility, as reported in July in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The pay range for the jobs in Rogers is $10-$13 per hour.

Other Serco centers are located in London, Ky.; Lawton, Okla.; and Wentzville, Mo. A Serco official who is in Rogers for this week’s hiring said the company is filling the positions with the help of two subcontractors, both with similar missions yet expertise in different aspects of hiring.

“Most of the positions do fall under us,” said Greg Powell, corporate recruiting manager for Serco Inc., headquartered in Reston, Va.

Serco is handling eligibility support services and verification for the health-insurance applications. Potential users mail their applications to the Rogers facility and Serco makes sure the paperwork includes all necessary information and is accompanied by required documents.

“It’s very similar to if someone were applying for Social Security,” Powell said.

Serco Inc. is the American division of Serco Group, which is headquartered and operates mainly in the United Kingdom. The Rogers hub, spread over two buildings at the corner of North 13th Street and West Roselawn Drive, went live earlier this month with an initial 700 or so employees hired for the first shift in August.

Over time, Serco’s contract with the Center for Medicaid Services-Eligibility Support has a potential worth of about $1.3 billion. About 4,000 workers will be hired in all four Serco centers to start and there’s talk that number could be 8,000 to 10,000 people in the next three to six months, Powell said.

He made it clear that the company’s contract work related to the Affordable Care Act is in no way tied to the glitches that system applicants are encountering when attempting to register online at healthcare.gov.

“That’s not us,” he said, chuckling.

The company’s North America branch works directly with the U.S. government. Clients include all branches of the military, as well as many federal civilian agencies and the intelligence community.

“We’re very embedded,” Powell said.

Serco and its subcontractors are looking for 1,100 qualified workers during a week-long job fair at the Center for Nonprofits. Between 20 and 30 people had already been hired in the first hour on Monday. Some were already screened and had appointments for interviews; others stopped first at one of two mobile trailers set up in the parking lot and were sent inside for interviews after filling out an application and submitting a resume. The initial hiring in August was for the operation’s first shift - 6 a.m.-2 p.m. or 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Serco is now focusing now on finding workers for its second shift, which is 4 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Ideal candidates are loaded with people skills, likely from the food service or retail industries. The second shift is appealing to some, Powell said, such as students who go to school during the day or someone looking for a second job.

Among the early hires on Monday were Travis Dalton of Bentonville and Stacy Gooseberry of Fayetteville, both of whom are scheduled to start work on Nov. 4.

Dalton, who is medically retired from the Army and currently works at the front desk of the DoubleTree Suites in Bentonville, said he was hoping to stay on at the hotel part-time while working the full-time second shift at Serco. The 16-day partial government shutdown, caused this month when lawmakers could not pass the necessary funding measures, makes Dalton a little worried about what will happen if the government shuts down again. It could happen again as soon as January.

“With the federal government the way it is, will my new employer be getting paid and will that trickle down to us?” Dalton said.

The jobs are safe for the foreseeable future, Powell said. Congress had already approved and funded Serco’s contract.

“The shutdown had no impact on this whatsoever,” he said. “If the government had stayed shut down, we would have still proceeded.”

Dalton will be doing data entry.

“It pays a lot better than what I’m doing now and it comes with benefits,” he said. “That’s the big plus is that it comes with benefits.” His military retirement doesn’t provide much, he said.

Gooseberry, who has worked in child care and as a mentor in the Chicago public schools and a case worker for the Arkansas Division of Family and Child Services, said she believes her experience “dealing with tough situations” helped her land a job with Serco.

Front Section, Pages 1 on 10/22/2013

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 total comments

GCW says... October 22, 2013 at 6:32 a.m.

True republicans like those who populate NWA would be appalled at all the government money being wasted in their town.

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dman says... October 22, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.

I'm happy for jobs being available for some folks in NWA, but also glad it's a contract, so we're not paying retirement and insurance benefits forever and ever for potential "nonessential" government workers somewhere down the line.

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