Following the “Great Lifeguard Shortage of 2022,” municipalities already are implementing strategies to avoid a repeat of last summer — when the American Lifeguard Association predicted that at least one-third of all public swimming pools in the country were at risk of reducing hours or closing entirely because of a lack of lifeguards.
Members of the Austin (Texas) City Council, for example, have boosted the minimum wage for lifeguards to $20 per hour and now offer free training, a free uniform, a free public transportation pass and a $400 lifeguard training stipend for staff members who complete a certain number of work hours during the swim season.
“The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department aims to open all public pools this summer but cannot reach this goal unless the Aquatic Division can train and hire over 700 lifeguards between now and spring of 2023,” according to a statement issued by the city, which includes a link to apply for a lifeguarding position. “Depending on their age, people interested in becoming a lifeguard can start working at one of Austin’s year-round pools now or get the training under their belt this fall or winter, then start lifeguarding in the spring or summer. Lifeguards over the age of 16 can start work right away and 15-year-old lifeguards can begin working after [school] lets out for summer break.”
The statement goes on to note that lifeguarding can serve as “a stepping-stone” to a career in public service or a job as a first responder.
Indeed, lifeguards in Evanston (Ill.) are expected to be under the purview of the Evanston Fire Department — rather than the Parks and Recreation Department — beginning next summer. Although other issues precipitated the move, officials hope “the switch will provide more career-building opportunities for young lifeguards and therefore help with recruitment,” according to The Daily Northwestern. The fire department also plans to create a new curriculum for lifeguard certification via the American Red Cross (rather than the United State Lifesaving Association) and include more training specific to Evanston’s Lake Michigan beaches.
In West Bend, Wis., where the Regner Park Pond was closed in 2022 for only the second summer in 85 years, parks and recreation officials developed new incentives to fill the 20 or so lifeguarding positions needed to reopen the pond next summer — including a two-minute video promotional video shared on social media.
“We bumped the starting salary up to $17.50 an hour. We’re also going to do a $250 sign-on bonus. Also if you are not certified, we will get you certified,” Mike Jentsch, director of the West Bend Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, told TMJ4.com. “If someone is looking for a 16-hour-week part-time job for next summer, this is it. If someone is looking for 40 hours a week for next summer, this is it.”
Meanwhile, the City of St. Catharines in Ontario, Canada, is offering “heavily discounted” aquatic certification courses to avid swimmers interested in becoming a lifeguard and instructor for the city. The deal covers the cost of the courses and certification fees for participants ages 13 and up; candidates only will be responsible for purchasing course material.
“This is an excellent opportunity for strong swimmers interested in becoming a lifeguard, whether they’re a student, retiree or someone looking for a bit of a career change,” Jennifer Green, the aquatics supervisor for St. Catharines, said on the city’s website. “The idea is to break down barriers and make it easier for individuals to get trained to become lifeguards or instructors and give them a chance to make a difference.”
The City of Sault Ste. Marie, also in Ontario, is offering free courses to newcomers, as well as allowing qualified supervisory staff to fill in as lifeguards and work to train more lifeguards