Ask almost any teenager what's the one thing they want to do during their summer or holiday break from school and the answer may surprise you. Most teens of employable age want just that - a chance to work. They crave the independence a job offers and, let's face it, can always find a use for the income such work provides.

For a St. Charles teenager, one of the most coveted employment opportunities has to be a position with the St. Charles Park District. Fortunately, with hundreds of youth employees working everywhere from buildings and grounds to pools and camps, the park district can be the answer to many a teen's prayers.

"We are a huge employer of youth for the community," said Jennifer Bruggeman, Assistant Superintendent of Recreation. "In 2017, we had 534 employees aged 16-21. A lot of them are seasonal employees, but some work year 'round on a part-time basis for us. And in our Parks and Maintenance departments, we even have some full-time workers."

According to the U. S. Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, "nearly all young people - 98.6 percent - hold at least one job between the ages of 18 and 25." These first employment experiences can set the stage for future work experience - by instilling good work habits such as punctuality and responsibility, bolstering self-esteem, and even introducing them to an area of expertise that can lead to lifelong careers.

"Almost all of our recreation staff got into this field because we loved our part-time park district jobs when we were younger," said Bruggeman. "Almost all of us worked at a park district when we were in high school and college and that experience is what secured the idea for us that this is the field we wanted to go into."

Job positions with the St. Charles Park District can range from outdoor maintenance work such as watering planters and mulching playgrounds to jobs that require a lot of public interaction such as working the front desk at the community center answering phones and helping people register for programs. And, of course, there are the traditional youth summer jobs working as camp counselors and pool lifeguards, according to Bruggeman.

Regardless of their area of responsibility, all youth employees at the St. Charles Park District receive training, not only in the specific tasks associated with their particular job, but also in guidance in essential life skills.

"I feel we are teaching workplace skills such as professionalism and time management, customer service and even how to build effective team relationships which are all key things in making them employable adults," said Bruggeman.

The on-the-job training youth employees receive is reinforced by on-the-job feedback. Teens work with peer mentors who help introduce them to job requirements and practices. Senior supervisors also provide feedback through regular and timely evaluations.

"We pride ourselves on coaching all our supervisors to give feedback immediately and consistently so there are no surprises when it comes to a performance review," said Bruggeman. "It is the first time many teens are receiving a document that evaluates them for things like punctuality, helping teammates, customer service and knowledge of work area."

The park district uses various training methods and measures performance both internally, through individualized coaching and performance reviews, and externally via standard auditing procedures such as the Kane County Health Department Food Establishment Inspections which, in 2017, awarded a 99% rating at Swanson Pool, and 100% ratings at Otter Cove Aquatic Park, River View Miniature Golf and Pottawatomie Golf Course. Additionally, the park district pool staff is audited monthly by Jeff Ellis & Associates, a national industry leader in aquatic risk management assessment programming and, again, both aquatic facilities consistently receive the group's highest rankings. In fact, individual employees can be the recipient of Ellis & Associates coveted "Golden Guard" award, which recognizes exemplary performance by a lifeguard who demonstrates a high degree of swimmer protection.

"Our employees may not realize that just as they are being evaluated by our staff, we as a park district are being evaluated by other agencies. Our employees are the key to our success in these evaluations," said Bruggeman. "These industry and governmental recognitions are important to us as a park district and reflect well on our community as a whole."

Hiring top-notch employees is critical to the park district's mission, and Bruggeman cites essential qualities interested teens should possess when applying for a job.

"Our most employable teens are personable. They are comfortable speaking with adult supervisors and working with teammates their own age or older," said Bruggeman. "We look for employees who possess a good sense of right and wrong - integrity or trustworthiness, if you will."

For interested teens, applications for the 2018 season will be available in late November. The park district begins posting specific job requirements before the end of 2017 and can even begin conducting interviews for summer, 2018, employment during the Christmas break.

"It can be a pretty competitive environment," said Bruggeman. "About half of our work force returns from year to year. We value having our local teens working with us."

For more information about youth employment opportunities with the St. Charles Park District,
contact Jennifer Bruggeman at 630-513-4337.