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National Staff Shortage Impacting Everyone, Even the Wood Dale Park District

Like business and corporate, government entities like the Wood Dale Park District are getting desperate. According to an article in Barron’s, in June of 2021 job openings rose to an unprecedented 10.1 million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Still, 8.7 million workers were unemployed in July.  Various economic indicators strongly support the idea that there aren’t enough workers in the United States to fill the jobs. Also, the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs rose by 164,000 to 942,000 in June of 2021.  With over 20 positions open at the Wood Dale Park District, with minimal applications, our ability to serve the public has been drastically impacted.  Customers are frustrated, and we understand.  We are too.

Most recently, the former TopGolf facility, soon to be operated by the Wood Dale Park District under the name of 390 Golf Experience, has postponed its opening due to circumstances beyond their control, one of the biggest being the staff shortage.  “We can’t provide the experience to our customers at the high standards set by the Administration and Board with the staff we currently have available.” Said Matthew Ellmann, Executive Director.

The additional unemployment compensation is said to be part of the reason for the shortage.  While it is set to end on September 6, 2021, will the loss of this extra compensation cause people to seek employment?   Financial management firm, BTIG, in a recent report said it’s not likely.  In fact, they reported some startling findings relative to employment:

  • Only 6% of unemployment recipients would be motivated to go back to work when their unemployment benefits ended.
  • Only 14% of those surveyed were getting more money from unemployment benefits than from their last job.
  • After higher pay and benefits, work flexibility was the primary motivator to someone to return to an hourly wage position.

Industries of all types are having to cut back hours and service.  The Wood Dale Park District is no different.  The Front Desk at the Recreation Complex is now closed mid-day.  While keeping aquatic facilities open through the end of August has been an issue for decades.  This year, The Beach Waterpark closed on August 8, over a week earlier than usual.  With high schools adjusting their schedules to get finals in before holiday break, and staff leaving for college earlier than ever, seasonal staff left.  When temperatures reached the mid-nineties in August after the closing, the phones were ringing, and people were upset.  Those of us working in the public service industry want to serve, but we are stuck.

Once it appeared that the pandemic was subsiding, the desire for get-togethers increased.  Rentals were booming at all park district facilities.  Only one problem…we had no available staff to work the rentals.  Full-time staff were still stretched due to furloughs and job-transfers in 2020.  Staff were called back with minimal luck.  Wages and benefits have been discussed, but entities offering better examples of both aren’t able to hire either.

So, what is the reason for this?  The top reasons cited are fear of catching COVID-19, childcare issues, lack of interest in a job outside their field, a mismatch between skills workers have and skills that employers want, lack of flexibility and desire for remote work.  In general, potential employees’ attitudes are different about work.

Other than the virus, guess what else is running rampant?  Shockingly, it’s abuse and bullying of the employees who are working.  So, what are we asking of you, our customers?  Please be patient.  Give yourself more time to do your business or to recreate at our facilities.  Be tolerant of new employees, especially when they are learning the job.  Help us retain the staff we have by working collaboratively through this difficult time.  We greatly appreciate your cooperation in this area.

If you are frustrated with our service, we’re sorry.  There is a way you can help.  Check out our website and yes, you guessed it….fill out an application (please!).

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