Workforce agencies creating plan for Wells Fargo workers

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board this morning met to form a plan to help the 1,000 Milwaukee workers Wells Fargo & Co. will lay off in July.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo announced yesterday it is closing its home lending servicing center at 11200 W. Parkland Ave. on Milwaukee’s northwest side in late July. Employees were informed yesterday to give them time to find other positions either within Wells Fargo or elsewhere, the company said. The closure is in part due to the improving economy, since there are fewer mortgage holders defaulting on their payments and fewer delinquencies to address at the Milwaukee home lending office.

The company said it’s not clear yet how many positions Wells Fargo could absorb locally. Wells Fargo currently has 1,300 employees in the Milwaukee market (pre-layoff) and 3,000 employees statewide.

“Between now and when that official notice period would happen, we’ll be working closely with the human resources groups that represent all of our other business units there,” said Tom Goyda, vice president of consumer lending communications at Wells Fargo.

The Wells Fargo layoff is the largest in Milwaukee in recent memory, said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He’s hopeful the city’s employers can absorb the positions.

“I was obviously angry and disappointed with the announcement,” Barrett said. “But now what we have to do is we have to move forward and see if we can help people land on their feet.”

The DWD and HIRE Center plan to offer affected workers a number of services, including Rapid Response orientation sessions to explain Unemployment Insurance benefits, job search assistance and potential job training opportunities. They will meet with Wells Fargo representatives on Monday.

Monday’s meeting will be an opportunity to gather information about the skill level and expertise of the affected Wells Fargo employees, so MAWIB and the HIRE Center can reach out to other employers to find placements, Barrett said.

“My understanding is that initially the company is going to be meeting with workers…to see what they can do internally,” he said. “It’s our hope that Wells Fargo will be very proactive in finding opportunities for its employees internally.”

The Wisconsin Bankers Association said it doesn’t track jobs data for the industry, and wouldn’t be able to pinpoint whether the Milwaukee market could absorb 1,000 mortgage workers.

According to MAWIB, its wanted analytics show there are 1,739 finance and insurance job openings in the seven-county region as of today.

According to the DWD, Wisconsin’s finance and insurance industry accounted for $21.5 billion of the state’s GDP in 2012.

“We are moving quickly to assist affected workers and their families,” said DWD Secretary Reggie Newson. “We are working closely with our partners at the Milwaukee HIRE Center to coordinate assistance that connects affected workers with other potential employers in the finance and insurance industry, which we know is actively seeking qualified talent in Wisconsin.”

Area banks were unsure or unwilling to say whether they might hire some of the laid off workers.

“We consider our staffing decisions to be proprietary and competitive information that we do not disclose,” said Marcey Zwiebel, vice president and senior manager of external communications at The PNC Financial Services Group. The Pittsburgh-based company operates 34 PNC Bank branches in the Milwaukee market.

Wells Fargo has 57 Wisconsin offices, 23 of which are in the Milwaukee market. The company said the closure will not impact its other Milwaukee market operations, which include business and commercial banking, wealth management and brokerage.

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