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Assistant Lead Craftsman – Life Support

Visiting a zoo reinforces how not only how critical water is but the comprehensive Life Support Systems that provide the healthy ecosystem for the diversity of animals we are privileged to care for.  Zoo Life Support Systems, from simple to large and complex must be maintained at the highest quality to provide safe and stable environments essential for animal welfare while providing a naturalistic and aesthetically pleasing design to guests.  Brookfield Zoo has over sixty (60) different aquatic systems (ranging from 10 gallons to ~850,000 gallons) and water features along with the creation of special effect environments ranging from basic rain to humid rain forests to provide optimal environmental conditions for our over 4,500 animals’ unique needs and meeting the Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards.

The Assistant Lead Craftsman for Life Support Systems will perform highly skilled crafts duties associated with Life Support Systems located throughout 216 acres ensuring all systems, equipment, and facilities are operating to the highest standards as it relates to water quality, animal health and facility maintenance.  Responsibilities include daily water testing, pool and equipment checks, making adjustments as needed to pool and water chemistry; accurate recordkeeping; maintaining and making repairs to valves, actuators, piping, ozone generators, compressors, etc.

The Assistant Lead Craftsman for Life Support Systems contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society (“CZS”) by performing highly skilled craft duties throughout the park with a focus on life support systems.  Supports the Society’s mission and identified goals related to asset protection, financial sustainability, guest experience, and animal welfare.  Ensures work performed provides a safe environment for guests, employees, and the animal collection.  Ensures exhibits and facilities are functional, in a well-maintained state, and support Society objectives.

Primary Job Duties and Responsibilities:

The Assistant Lead Craftsman is expected to perform a variety of duties, which include but are not limited to the following.  Specific assignments may vary depending upon the specific nature of work performed and/or specific duties assigned. 

  • Performs a variety of assigned duties without direct supervision, ensuring work and services meet operating standards, client specifications, codes, if applicable, and work group goals. This includes routine and non-routine tasks, including, but not limited to those associated with preventative maintenance, special repair projects, renovations, capital construction, events, emergency/safety projects, and other tasks.
  • In the absence of a Lead: Supervises and coordinates work on a daily basis.  Consults and cooperates with management in scheduling daily and special projects and provides accurate, written estimates of materials and labor in regard to work tasks and projects.  Provides input and suggestions with respect to work assignments, scheduling, and prioritization.  Responsible for daily work allocation for assigned crew, adjusting as necessary to meet changing circumstances.  Coordinates work as needed with other departments. Conducts scheduled reviews and inspections to monitor quality. Provides information to manager(s) needed for purchases.  Monitors individual department budget line items as assigned (e.g., materials) to assure expenses and purchases are within budget.  Notifies manager of any potential budget issues or variances.  As assigned, investigates, documents, and recommends items and services for purchase after obtaining written cost comparisons.  Submits requisitions to manager for approval of material purchases.  Maintains inventory at appropriate levels.  Assesses environmental impact of all products and recommends selection.  Assures sustainable behaviors and practices in support of conservation and resource use in assigned area.  Implements sustainable operations in support of the environment.
  • Provides frequent updates to Lead, managers and staff on work in progress and provides regular project status reports to promote communications, smooth operations, resolve issues, and avoid problems, inefficiencies or conflicts. Maintains complete and accurate work records, including overtime and other data as required.  Responsible for timely auditing and correcting of daily time allocation reports as needed to insure accuracy.
  • Cooperates with work group and provides input into developing standard operating procedures and employee performance standards for individual work group including documentation, communication, implementation, and follow-up. Provides technical support and supervision to other Life Support staff as assigned. Communicates and enforces established Society policies and departmental operating procedures, and standards.
  • Maintains equipment in proper operating condition. Has shared responsibility with other work groups for maintaining, operating, and allocating equipment.  Instructs employees in and assures the proper use of assigned equipment.  Maintain the highest standards of work area cleanliness, both in the shop areas and the assigned buildings.
  • Maintains a safe environment for workers, animals, and guests. Performs daily inspections of assigned areas throughout park, including identifying problems and correcting substandard issues regarding public and staff safety, animal welfare, park presentation and guest experience.  Determines and prioritizes urgent and necessary repairs, unfinished tasks, and other noted problems or items needing attention, as necessary, to adequately maintain assigned area(s) or project(s).  Monitors established safety practices and assures adherence to standard safety procedures, including the use of safety equipment.  Maintains safety for the public, staff, animals, and CZS assets by applying the appropriate use of signage, barricades, and other measures as appropriate.
  • Leads, motivates, and evaluates assigned staff. Models Society values and sets a professional example for all staff.  Trains and orients new hires including seasonal staff.  Provides regular feedback to staff on performance.  Identifies and, when possible, resolves issues of conflict with assigned staff; brings matters needing further attention to manager.  Provides manager written input into performance evaluations of assigned staff, including documentation of exceptional performance and/or failure to meet performance standards, goals, or expectations.  Participates in interview process and provides input on candidate skills, qualifications, suitability, and final selection decision as requested.
  • Promotes cooperation, involvement and fosters a respectful, effective work environment among assigned work group within the department. Effectively communicates information from managers to staff by conducting scheduled weekly staff meetings.  Provides input from staff to managers.  Holds additional meetings with staff, including other departments’ staff or project teams, as needed, to assure adequate flow of information and completion of work.  Interacts and facilitates communication with external clients, vendors, and contractors.  Monitors and documents the work and performance of vendors or contractors as appropriate and notifies manager of problems or substandard performance.
  • Supervises and performs appropriate tasks in accordance with the Society’s Incident Response Program, Severe Weather Plan, along with animal or other emergencies. Leads and directs others to respond appropriately, cooperating with program Coordinators.
  • Willingly informs and assists the public. Maintains an awareness of Park schedules and activities to provide information to the public and answers questions as necessary.  Actively helps to create a welcoming environment for guests.  Proactively attends to guest needs, seeking to provide the best experience for each visitor.  Interacts effectively with guests, including formal and informal tours, information sessions, and enriching activities.  Minimizes disruption to public experience in the performance of work.
  • Other related duties as required may include working in other work groups or departments as priorities of workload dictate.

The requirements for this position include the following:

  • High school diploma or (GED) equivalent.
  • Graduate of an accredited program equaling four years in an apprenticeship and/or a journeyman in plumbing, electrical or pumps, or in lieu of graduating from an accredited program, six (6) years of equivalent experience required.
  • NSPF Certified Pool Operator certificate at time of hire or within 6 months of hire.
  • PADI Open Water Diver Certification at time of hire or within 6 months of hire.
  • Five (5) years relevant experience required including a track record of progressive responsibility and ability to work independently.  Including one (1) year of relevant supervisory experience.
  • Experience managing/repairing complete enclosed filtration systems including: high rate sand filters, ozone generators, air compressors, centrifugal pumps (including rebuilding), and valves required. Experience in water testing and analysis, e.g. salinity, PH, etc., required.
  • English fluency at a professional working proficiency.
  • Able to perform all required math commensurate with field of responsibility and job duties.
  • Must be familiar with relevant codes and regulations related to field.
  • Requires a strong aesthetic sense, ability to visualize and plan projects.
  • Ability to effectively communicate in 2D and 3D through sketches and drawings.
  • Ability to lead, motivate and direct teams.
  • Good organizational, communication, interpersonal, problem-solving and decision-making skills required.
  • Ability to work with little or no direct supervision.
  • Ability to meet critical deadlines and handle multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Ability to effectively handle emergent issues and deal with individuals in a tactful and professional manner.
  • Cultural competency; experience and/or ability to work and interact effectively with a diverse, multicultural audience.
  • Valid driver’s license required.

The preferred qualifications:

  • Three (3) years of relevant supervisory experience preferred.
  • Knowledge in reading blueprints and construction specifications and managing projects is desirable.
  • Multilingual ability, Spanish fluency a plus.

Additional Information:  This job description outlines the primary job duties, responsibilities, and requirements of the Assistant Lead Craftsman position.  It is not intended to be all inclusive or to be a listing of every job duty an incumbent may ever be called upon to perform.  The Assistant Lead Craftsman position is a hands-on technical and assistant supervisor position that requires a wide range of knowledge, experience, and skill in working with traditional and specialized fabrication, materials and equipment, as well as administration and supervision of assigned staff.  Requires a flexible, dependable, motivated, self-starting, and results-oriented individual who is able to effectively oversee and motivate staff and foster a positive work environment.  Incumbent must be able to effectively handle emergent issues and deal with all levels of staff in a tactful and professional manner.  Incumbent ensures the work being performed is done safely, with quality, and provides a safe environment for all.  Ensures exhibits and facilities are functional, in a well-maintained state, supports the Society’s communication objectives, coordinates or manages projects, and coordinates assigned personnel to ensure maximum efficiency of resources and departmental goals are attained.  Incumbent is expected to gain an understanding of and support the Society’s mission, vision, values, and operating philosophies, and to incorporate these into daily work performance.  Must be available for consultation in emergency and other unanticipated situations outside of regularly scheduled work hours.

The Chicago Zoological Society is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

If you are interested in being considered for this opportunity, please visit the CZS Career Center to obtain more details about the position and to apply by submitting your profile.  Please visit our website at  Please look for requisition 1993BR.