With the fairly recent closures of numerous area retail outlets and stores such as Gander Mountain/Outdoors, Pier One Imports, Lane Bryant, and Mauerer’s Market, along with Shopko, Boston Store, Sears, Staples, Dress Barn, Kitchen Collectibles, JC Penney and others, individuals who have been impacted may be wondering what resources are available for them to secure gainful employment opportunities. The Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board (SWWDB) has a Dislocated Retail Worker Program, a recently developed opportunity to help workers affected by retail industry layoffs.

The Dislocated Retail Worker Program is offered in addition to the existing services available for dislocated workers. It will offer enhanced financial assistance for training to eligible individuals who have been or will be laid off from a retail store, or a retail company’s corporate office, distribution center, or call center. It can also help with transportation, child care, testing, housing, tools and uniforms as individuals prepare for a new job or career.

Among the ongoing services available through the SWWDB are assessments of skill levels, training, retraining and supportive service assistance, assistance with unemployment applications, referrals and coordination with other programs and services, workforce preparation activities, financial literacy services, job search, internships and work experience programs, and English language education, among other services. Eligible individuals have the opportunity to work with professional career planners to plan their next steps, access funds for training (up to $15,000) and search for new jobs.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) recently awarded a grant to SWWDB to establish this program. Funds for these enhanced services were provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and are available through September 2020.

“This is a ‘win-win’ opportunity for our community and our affected workers,” said Rhonda Suda, SWWDB CEO. “As we’re hearing from local businesses about their need for more skilled workers, these additional resources provide an avenue to develop the skills in-demand by local business. This grant is especially noteworthy and timely. We are seeing increased dislocations from the retail sector, a trend I predict will continue for some time.”

Those interested, or who would like additional information, can contact Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) Supervisor Casey Dobson at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville, at (608) 741-3507 or email her at c.dobson@jobcenter.org.

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