Local employers face uphill hiring battle

Many of Hinsdale’s businesses have in recent months adorned their front window with new signage: Help Wanted.

At Baldinelli Pizza, owner Greg White said they’ve been looking for a line cook and delivery drivers since the summer.

“I’ve been posting for jobs on various sites for probably the last three months and gotten little traffic for applicants,” White said

He’s certainly not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to roil the labor market, as reported in headlines across the country.

J.C. Licht is seeking to fill positions at its store in Grant Square, assistant manager Leslie Munoz said, and at every one of its four dozens stores across the Chicago area. But the climate seems to be improving, she noted.

“We’re a little short-staffed. It was worse in the beginning of the pandemic, but now it’s all right,” Munoz related.

She said the starting salary for a sales position is above minimum wage, with health benefits and 401K. The challenge has been getting potential candidates to follow through.

“Some people come and apply, but then they don’t want to (take the job),” she said.

White speculated that the application process is used by some to extend their unemployment benefits.

“We’ve had a couple different hires that come in, work a couple days and then leave,” he said.

At Burhops Seafood, manager Jon Castelan said he typically adds staff this time of year to deal with the holiday surge in business.

“We’ve also got a couple guys leaving at the end of the year, so we’re probably going to be needing some extra help,” Castelan said.

High schoolers can work after classes, he said, but full-time workers are in short supply.

“We sometimes need more people in the morning shift to help open,” Castelan commented.

Fewer hands makes more work for those on staff, of course. That’s been the case at Hinsdale High School District 86, said Cheryl Ward, assistant superintendent of human resources, in response to the shortage of substitute teachers.

“We’re using our current employees to fill in for each other, which is not ideal,” she said, “They’re giving up their planning time to fill in some of the gaps, but they step up to make sure our kids’ needs are being met.”

She said the district has hired more than 20 subs since the start of the year, thanks in part to notices in the district’s newsletter that yielded hires from within the community. Recruiting paraprofessionals has been a challenge, as well.

“Those positions don’t always pay well,” she acknowledged of the $16-per-hour rate. “Wages are rising (in the private sector), and we’re facing a challenge in finding individuals.”

Ward expressed gratitude that she has just two full-time vacancies compared to dozens of openings that some of her peers in nearby districts trying to fill.

Moore’s counterpart in Community Consolidated District 181, Gina Herrmann, said pay may also be a factor in the district’s struggle to hire substitutes.

“We have started to study our substitute rate of pay. We are a little bit lower than other districts, so we are looking to how to address that,” she said.

The vaccine mandate for school staff also has a chilling effect on some, Herrmann said. She also praised the staff for extending themselves when necessary.

“We’ve come together as a team districtwide so that there’s no negative impact on our students,” she remarked.

Both Moore and Herrmann said the districts remain desirable places for prospective employees.

“The support that the community has for the schools is a very strong advantage,” Moore said.

“When we go to hire teachers, we haven’t had challenges with recruiting high quality candidates,” Herrmann said.

White said he hopes a lifting of mask mandates and people’s need for income will keep those numbers moving in the right direction.

“You’re not just looking to hire a person, you’re looking to hire someone who’s going to fit the image of your business,” White said. “I try to be optimistic.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean