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Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:17 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

Officials from Fort Hood and computer maker Dell Inc. on Wednesday announced a new program that will allow Army spouses to conduct customer service functions in their homes, creating portable jobs for an educated population that suffers from underutilization because of its mobility.

Retired Maj. Gen. Frank Miller, Dell's vice president for fulfillment operations, announced at a news conference at the Central Texas Workforce Center in Killeen that an eight-month pilot program, which ended last November, trained four military wives in the "full scope and breadth of customer care."

The trial was deemed successful enough to begin training 50 more spouses, beginning May 1, to start work by Aug. 1.

"They'll be able to work from home and may be able to take their jobs with them when they leave," Miller said.

In a traditional call center, they would have to commute to Dell's facility in Round Rock, he said.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, and U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, also spoke at the news conference, which was attended by about 75 representatives from the media, the city of Killeen, the military and the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. Retired Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor, Heart of Texas Defense Alliance board chairman, was the moderator.

"Instead of establishing a call center, after training in Round Rock, we're taking jobs to spouses," Miller said. "When we're finished with this pilot project with 50 more people, we'll evaluate the results and go from there."

Dell is an original member of the Army Spouses Employment Partnership involving the U.S. Army, the Army Career and Alumni Program, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and 18 other employers, including a number of Fortune 500 companies.

"This is an example of perseverance and innovation," Metz said. "Our precious spouses are very valuable. This helps assure that they're well taken care of. They are older, more mature and settled than the average employee, and this will help them achieve a work-life balance."

"We thank and commend these fine men for what they're doing for us," Carter said. "My youngest son just got married now I feel I'm presiding over another marriage making the business and military communities an army of families."

Taylor thanked the Central Texas Workforce Centers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Killeen Economic Development Corp. and Metz.

Taylor said JetBlue, American Airlines and other companies provided the models for the service and that this is the first time such home-based telecommuting has been developed for a specific pool of potential employees.

A $6.4 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to the CTWC for its "Jobs 4 Military Families" program is supporting the project.

"Dell is setting an example," Metz said. "We hope we're pressing others in this partnership (ASEP) into following suit and doing something like this."

Contact Don Bolding at dbolding@kdhnews.com

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