Through reputation, creative means, and in some cases a little more worker incentive, park districts and McHenry County departments have found the seasonal workers needed to fulfill their summer program. .
While parts of the state have struggled to fill their seasonal staff and some jobs have been harder to fill than others, officials across the county said they are confident the lineup and facilities should not be altered due to staff shortages.
“We’re looking pretty good,” Huntley Park District Executive Director Scott Crowe said. “We’ve done a lot of work where we are.”
Crystal Lake Park District is one of the region’s largest seasonal employers of young people, said human resources manager Anna Olas. Hiring areas included summer day camps, park staff, beach staff and instructors for programming, she said.
On that list, one area that saw a shortage was labor and park maintenance staff, where demands were lower than in previous years, Olas said. The camp stations, meanwhile, generated a lot of interest.
Crystal Lake’s father, Erik Zier, said he didn’t have much trouble enrolling his daughter in a 10-week summer camp. However, since it was sold out, she will miss the first two weeks and start the third week, he said.
“I don’t think it has to do with staffing,” he said. “I think it just filled up.”
At Huntley, Crowe said while he knew filling the roster would be an uphill battle this year, it was last year that brought the toughest challenge.
Starting recruiting early plays a major role in finding enough staff, Crowe said. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 meant losing a year of it. This year, however, many employees will be returning from last year, giving the district something more to build on, he said.
Career fairs, digital promotions and partner agencies spreading the word helped boost the numbers, he said.
“It wasn’t easy, but we’re confident we can say we’re well equipped for the summer,” Crowe said.
For the Cary Park District, the opening of the new Sunburst Bay Aquatic Center proved to be a huge draw, as the Park District staged a marketing campaign to be part of the first team to work at the facility. , said Katie Hughes, director. communications and marketing.
The park district is always looking for more workers for its summer day camps, Hughes said.
“We could always use more day camp workers,” she said. “Hire more staff would allow us to have even more campers…and reduce our waiting list.
As in previous years, the McHenry Parks Department is blessed with a helping hand through its strong relationships with those who participate in the programs, said Sports and Water Sports Supervisor Nicole Thompson.
The department often sees participants join programs, like swimming, at a young age and stay there for many years. Once they turn 15, the district can see if they’re interested in working for the city, Thompson said.
Katie Wolf, from McHenry, said she was able to enroll her children, aged 4, 3 and 1, in whatever was available for their age groups.
“We had no problem signing up,” she said. “Swimming, a lot of athletics. … We had no problems last year either.
In McHenry, the city’s parks and recreation department is at the point where officials are turning away potential employees, Thompson said. The ministry expects to retain approximately 75% of its staff each year.
“We also sometimes have siblings,” she said. “Word of mouth and reputation were the cornerstone of being easier to hire.”
Although not all park agency sectors are seeing large numbers. Lifeguards have been in short supply for nearly a decade now, Olas said. Referral programs and salary adjustment are things done to attract lifeguards, she said.
“These shortages are not new to the region,” she said. “We had shortages of lifeguards long before [the pandemic].”
Molly Quinn and Jamie Schroll, of Crystal Lake, both have children who work as lifeguards in the Crystal Lake Park District.
“Their beach staff feels a little understaffed,” Quinn said. “It also takes a long time to train these new people.
Still, Crystal Lake Park District officials expect to have enough lifeguards for the lineup. And those who do well one year could be invited back the following year, helping to reduce the overall need for staff in both lifeguards and other areas of need, Olas said.
Thompson said McHenry in his day never had a problem finding lifeguards.
Huntley’s Crowe said it was difficult to find lifeguards, but they always get the number they need.
“If you treat the staff well, they’ll come back,” Crowe said. “[Lifeguard] shortages are certainly a topic among the various park districts. Some have more difficulty than others. »