Chicago lifeguard applicants say hiring process is complicated amid staffing shortage

The heat is on, as the Chicago Park District is still facing a summer staffing shortage.

However, some lifeguard applicants say they are getting mixed messages about the open positions.

Parents say the hiring process for teenage lifeguards is tedious.

Photos from last Monday show more than 100 teenagers trying to complete the process to become a lifeguard.


Leslie McLaurin says her son waited more than three hours, expecting to be assigned to a park but was turned away.

McLaurin says spots were filling up fast for beaches, and there was no clear understanding when the spots for parks would open.

It comes amid a lifeguard shortage nationwide and here in Chicago. It’s still unclear if park district pools will be open for the summer.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently announced a $500 incentive for teenagers to become lifeguards, but those we spoke to today say it's not an easy process whatsoever.

"The process was like really hard, because we were standing in line for like two to three hours and we kept hearing the employees saying, ‘we have to leave,’ and it was just too many of us," said one applicant.

"This is my son's first job and the process that he was told, he was called upon by the city to step up because he's an avid swimmer. And then he's being told you will not be able to work at a pool, you'll be assigned to a beach and not the beach that you want," McLaurin said.

The Chicago Park District released the following statement:

"Last Monday at the lifeguard graduation, the Chicago Park District offered lifeguard candidates an opportunity to submit outstanding documents required to complete the hiring process. Each candidate received an email with a link to access and complete the necessary online documents and online-trainings prior to graduation.  Several candidates in attendance had not completed the online paperwork and the non-life-safety online-training requirements needed to finalize their employment process.

To assist candidates in completing the final steps of the process, park employees were available to collect documents and troubleshoot issues. The volume of candidates seeking hands-on support was larger than expected. Lifeguards who waited were encouraged to complete the onboarding process online as well as given the option of attending one of two other processing events scheduled for this week."