Kankakee County Board offices

Kankakee County Board

Not unlike companies in the private sector, Kankakee County has been met with the challenging task of filling employee vacancies.

County administrator Anita Speckman reported 20 vacancies at Tuesday’s county board executive committee meeting at the county administration building. She said it’s an unheard of problem for the county. That list has been whittled down to nine after the county recently published an ad in the Daily Journal about the openings.

“The postings for two in highway [department] have been there since March 16,” Speckman said. “And we get very, very few applicants. We’ve had [an opening for] a grant writer here in administration since April 23. The few applicants we see, one or two applications have absolutely no relevant experience that don’t even meet the requirements of an interview.

“So we continue to struggle as many people do, just trying to get applicants. Those we do get, are really not relevant to the positions that are open.”

Speckman said the postings for the highway department will likely be taken down, and the county will wait a few months before advertising for the positions again.

“We have multiple rounds of reposting, and we’re just not seeing a lot of activity,” she said.

Todd Sirois, board vice chairman, blamed the lack of applicants on the state’s extension of unemployment benefits.

“It would be nice if [Gov. JB Pritzker] would rescind the extra unemployment benefit that is probably causing people not to seek employment because they can make more money by not working than they can by working,” Sirois said. “You’re not the only entity. I believe there are many businesses in this community that cannot open full hours, have to close their doors early, because they might only have one staff or are short staffed.

“It is troublesome as an employer that you cannot get an employee, and I think we’re training people to be reliant on the government instead of going out and doing their own thing. So thank you for bringing that up because that has been weighing on my mind also.”

Speckman said she read an article in a Society for Human Resources Management publication saying companies should prepare for a “tsunami of turnover” soon.

“So what they’re predicting is sometime in the near future that there will be a tremendous amount of employees leaving their current employer, and the No. 1 issue cited was a more of a work-life balance after the issues with COVID,” she said. “We haven’t seen that yet. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said he’s seen other companies advertising for more employees.

“It’s all over the place, and nobody can find anybody,” he said. “It’s amazing. Ours have pensions and benefits. It’s not burger-flipping money, but it’s not house-in-the-Hamptons money either. But still, it’s a living. It’s a consistent act, just unbelievable.”

Board member John Fetherling asked if the job postings include salary ranges, with Speckman responding that they are.

“I feel strongly that it should include a salary range,” she said. “It’s just being fair to applicants.”

Fetherling said he thought the job for a grant writer, that had an entry-level salary of $30,000, would bring in more than what someone would get on unemployment.

Speckman said her department does salary studies before a job is posted. The $30,000 salary for the grant writer was at the low end for someone with minimal experience.

“I do use three different websites that do salaries, and I take a look at all three and make sure that they’re consistent,” she said. “... I typically compare that with the state of Illinois just to make sure that we’re being competitive. So that’s typically my process. I like to put a lot of research into it just to make sure that we’re competitive and that we’re current.”

Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at cbreach@daily-journal.com.