Bay Area Workforce Development Board connects laid off Shopko employees to jobs

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Shopko was born in Green Bay in 1962, and over the years expanded across the country to have 363 stores.

Shopko's Military Avenue store was the first to open in 1962. It's scheduled to close this April. (WBAY photo)

“It's kind of heart breaking. This is the first Shopko I actually worked at in high school,” Kaylee Graef said as she headed into the Shopko along Military Avenue, the company's first store.

“I remember when it was still the grocery store hooked onto Shopko, so that's why it's like, oh memories,” said Graef.

As of 2018, Shopko had more than 1,000 employees in the greater Green Bay area and was the 16th largest employer.

Those on the Bay Area Workforce Development Board say this news touches more than just people who worked in the retail stores. It also includes those who work in the corporate headquarters and distribution center.

“My understanding is that Shopko is not going to be providing any outplacement services, which is unusual for top managers,” said Jim Golembeski, Executive Director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board. “Usually when a company closes, or lets people go, they provide outplacement services; but that's not happening here.”

The workforce development board plans on using a grant from the state specifically designed to help laid-off retail sector workers go back to school.

“Let’s say someone wants to go into nursing; somebody wants to go into finance. There's money to do that, to the tune of $15,000 of tuition reimbursement for every individual,” said Golembeski.

The board is also working on getting a program called "human search engine" to help mid-career professionals find their next opportunity.

“The good thing is this is not 2002 or 2008 where there were just no jobs at all. The good thing is there's a lot of jobs available,” said Golembeski.

After Shopko announced its first round of closings, it was estimated nearly 800 employees would lose their jobs.

After Monday’s announcement it's unclear just how many jobs will be lost.