The second-biggest layoff in Canadian history is leaving some Algonquin students out in the cold.
Target, a big-box retail store, announced Jan. 15 it would be shutting down all of its Canadian locations within four months.
At the time of the announcement, Target Canada employed 17,600 individuals, including Elizabeth Neilson, a first-year student in the bachelor of applied business program.
Neilson said she heard the news while sitting in class.
“A girl sitting next to me said, ‘Well, you’re out of a job.’”
Neilson said she has applied to but not heard back from six companies so far in an attempt to stay debt-free.
“I’m probably going to have to go on OSAP,” she said.
“I was basically using 90 per cent of my paycheque to pay for tuition.”
Employees were effected emotionally as well. Target was Neilson’s first job and she had grown close to her co-workers.
“A lot of us had been working together since before it opened,” she said.
“It’s sad to think how it’s all gone.”
The largest layoff Canada has experienced took place in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1992. Stocks in codfish went belly-up, causing the closure of many businesses associated with the fishing industries.
Target’s closures aren’t isolated in the same way as that. The nearest point of reference is Target’s own acquisition of Zellers, another retail store, in 2011.
The vast majority of Zellers closed over the following two years, but there are a few still operating that will continue to operate after Target has finished closings its doors.
Cameron Elder is taking media and communications at Algonquin, and, like Neilson, had been working for his Target since before it opened its doors.
“We were kind of known as the underdogs of the retail thing,” he said.
“Everyone expected us to fail and we tried all we could to turn that around and make it profitable.”
He had intended to continue working with Target for many years.
“My schooling plans were to continue with this, and then take a business degree and hopefully work my way up through the company,” he said.