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home : news : business   April 29, 2016

5/6/2014 8:49:00 AM
Best (and worst) of summer jobs - and what's ahead for '14

With the school year school ending, students, such as Illinois Valley YMCA tumbling instructor Abby Jeppson, who attends Northern Illinois University, have their summer jobs in place. It is expected that businesses and industries around the Illinois Valley will subsidize more jobs for young people this year.NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
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With the school year school ending, students, such as Illinois Valley YMCA tumbling instructor Abby Jeppson, who attends Northern Illinois University, have their summer jobs in place. It is expected that businesses and industries around the Illinois Valley will subsidize more jobs for young people this year.

NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
What's up for 2014?

Business Employment Skills Team – Peru: BEST has applied for a grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity to subsidize summer jobs for about 150 youth in its eight-county area. Those jobs include both public and private employers, and youth are matched with available jobs, according to Pam Furlan, BEST’s executive director for local workforce investment board and programs.

“In general, there might be more opportunities for young people in the area,” Furlan said. “The employment picture in our area is getting a little bit better, so there may not be as much competition from adults as there once was, so that’s certainly a plus as well.”

Furlan said there were more employees in 2009, when BEST subsidized around 300 summer jobs only in La Salle, Bureau, Putnam and Lee counties.

Now, she says, various industries are starting to pick up hiring.

“It’s not like anyone is hiring a lot, but some are looking for a few,” Furlan said. “I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture, but it’s getting better.”

La Salle Parks and Recreation: There are about 65 positions to fill every summer, including lifeguards, pool support, maintenance crews, camp staff and tennis instructors.  Around 75 percent of workers are returning from the previous summer, park director Don Baldin said. High school and college students make up most of these workers, ages 15-22. All positions pay minimum wage.

“A lot of them, it’s their first job where they’ve got to show up and be responsible,” Baldin said. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment at first, but they catch on. The younger kids follow the example of the older kids.”

The competition for jobs isn’t that fierce, and since there’s always turnover, Baldin said he is usually able to find a position for a qualified applicant.

“We seem to get a bit of overflow, but not so much,” he said.

Peru Parks and Recreation: A mix of adults and youth make up the approximately 14 part-time jobs facilitating tennis, arts/crafts and tee ball. There are also 28 instructors for the various summer camps, according to park board president Ray Zborowski.

“The applications aren’t really overwhelming, but have some new ones come in every year,” Zborowski said. He added that there were new programs such as touch-a-truck, peewee tennis and youth and adult pickleball.

Illinois Valley YMCA – Peru: Camp counselors and lifeguards are summer jobs at the Y, although the existing staff members fill some of the positions, CEO Dave Potthoff said.

The Y still takes applications each year, and additional workers are usually high school- or college-age.

“We’re very fortunate because a lot of our positions come back from other years,” Potthoff said. “I guess they enjoy the fun of the Y.”

Rachel Stella
Media Editor

When he was around 13 years old, Don Baldin’s first summer job was as a baseball umpire in Oglesby.

Now he hires youth for jobs with La Salle Parks and Recreation as park director.

“I’ve always been involved in sports, one way or another,” Baldin said. “With Little League, you made $5 a game, and you were happy.”

Kelly Klobucher, executive director of the Hegeler Carus Foundation in La Salle, said she still keeps in touch through Facebook with co-workers from her first job at the GKC movie theater in Peru Mall.

“I learned how to work; I learned how to get to places on time,” she said.

Klobucher was 16 years old and made the then-minimum wage of $3.35 per hour.

“We had a really good time,” she said. “We’d stay late and watch movies when they first came out, because you had to watch it before you showed it to an audience. It was a fun job.”

Peru’s Second Ward Alderman Rodney Perez said his first job was a carhop at The Igloo in Peru.

“Cars used to pull up; people would sit in their vehicles, keep their headlights on, and we would bring their food out to them,” he said.

Perez was 15 when he started the job.

“All the kids that used to come in there late at night — they used to stay open ‘til 1 a.m.,” he said. “Back then, it was fun because all the hotrods would come in from the 1970s and ’80s … It was just the high school hang-out … It was just a really neat atmosphere.”

Peru Parks and Recreation Board President Ray Zborowski said his first job “was probably just cutting grass around the neighborhoods, trying to make some extra money” at age 12. “That’s what we all did back then.”

La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove remembers cutting grass when he was around 12 years old.

“I had probably close to 20 lawns, so I was really excited,” he said. “Minimum wage was $3.35 (per hour), so five bucks a lawn was pretty exciting.”

Grove also remembers his first steady job at Wendy’s.

“I was the grill man,” he said, but added he also cleared tables.

“You used to just leave your trays where you sat, and the person came and emptied your trash for you,” Grove said, telling the story of a customer who had gotten up to use the restroom and left a dental retainer on the food tray.

Not noticing the retainer and thinking the customer had left, he emptied the trash, to later face the customer’s consternation.

“I went dumpster-diving. I found the retainer, but it was kind of gross,” Grove said. “Good times.”

Dave Potthoff, CEO of the Illinois Valley Y, started working as part of the grounds crew on Peru’s ballfields when he was 15.

“I had great fun and I learned a lot,” Potthoff said, but added that before that job, he cut grass and did odd jobs for people in the neighborhood. “I was an entrepreneur well before my teens.”

Now, he hires some young people as camp counselors and lifeguards at the Y, and advises new workers to “show up on time, look presentable, and keep your ears open.”

“I see teen work as, most of all, a great experience, versus the wages you receive,” Potthoff said. “The money isn’t that important. The experience is priceless.”

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