Park Districts Working To Fill Lifeguard Positions

Nancy Harty
April 15, 2018 - 3:36 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Local park districts are having to do more recruiting to get enough lifeguards and fill other seasonal positions.

Lower unemployment, a summer calendar that doesn't always match up and more college students choosing internships all lead to a hiring crunch for park districts. 

Liza McElroy has seen the trend for a couple of years as the executive director of the park district of Highland Park and says colleagues in other districts -- and even those in retail -- are experiencing the same challenge.

In response to the shortage, Highland Park has raised starting pay for lifeguards from nine dollars an hour to ten.

McElroy says they're also reaching out on social media and conducting pop-up interviews at high schools during lunch.

She regularly asks parents if they know of kids looking for summer work to find the roughly 100 lifeguards they need, plus about 24 other staffers for the city's beach, water park and pool.

While students used to return to their jobs as lifeguards and camp counselors year after year,  they don't do that as much any more so they're also looking at offering perks, such as free passes to the fitness center, as another way to retain their seasonal workforce.

The perception of the job as just getting a tan and hanging out with friends doesn't align with reality, McElroy says.

"Your job is to be focused on your area and your zone.... you can't just start engaging in a conversation with your friends".