“Retail stores continue to make up a huge part of our local economy, but with the recent closures of Shopko, Sears and several others, it’s clear that the long-term future of many retail roles simply isn’t there,” said Anthony Snyder, CEO of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board, which covers Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago counties.
The grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development will cover the costs to train displaced retail workers for critical jobs in the region, such as welders, health care professionals, IT workers and manufacturing positions. The funds also will be used to cover costs, including mileage, child care and other financial assistance, during the the training period.
Snyder said the retail industry is also changing as it embraces additional technology that may render current positions unnecessary.
“Besides layoffs due to closures, retail stores are also ramping up their use of technology to replace workers, including the growing use of self-serve checkouts,” he said. “Although primarily being done to deal with labor shortages, eventually a retail store cashier will be as uncommon as someone to fill up your car or check your oil at the local gas station.”
Laid-off retail workers can apply to the program, which covers up to $15,000 in training expenses and up to $15,000 in support, for each individual. Once the initial $65,000 is exhausted, the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board will have the ability to apply for additional dollars in amounts of $100,000 until the pool of funds is gone.
To determine eligibility, individuals should contact their local American Job Center to schedule an appointment with a Fox Valley career planner to discuss their most recent jobs and determine if training for one of the in-demand roles for the region fits. Individuals will be eligible for training as soon as this fall.
In addition to the grant program, job center employees can evaluate individuals for other training and support programs.
To find a local job center, visit wisconsinjobcenter.org/directory or contact the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board at (920) 720-5600.