Why Do We Have A Lifeguard Shortage?

In recent years, there has been a nationwide shortage of lifeguards, leaving many public pools without the necessary personnel to provide services and programs such as learn to swim. The shortage is due to a combination of factors, including a lack of qualified applicants, and an increase in commercial pools and water parks. Creating more demand than supply. 

One of the primary reasons for the shortage of lifeguards is a lack of qualified applicants. Despite the fact that lifeguarding is a relatively simple job, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to become a lifeguard. These include being able to swim, and being able to remain calm in emergency situations. Unfortunately, not everyone meets these requirements, and this has resulted in a shortage of qualified applicants.

Another reason for the lifeguard shortage is a decrease in the number of lifeguard training programs. In the past, there were numerous organizations that offered lifeguard training courses. However, due to budget cuts and a lack of qualified trainers, COVID and other factors, many of these programs have struggled to provide training opportunities. This has resulted in fewer people being trained as lifeguards, and has further contributed to the shortage.

Additionally, lifeguarding has always been seen as a job for teenagers. Societal views of this position has created some of the current issues as well. Young people no longer want to work in a job with the demands that lifeguarding requires. Lifeguarding is a great job for stay-at-home moms, retired individuals who are just wanting some extra income, and for people who would like to make aquatics/recreation a career. 

Finally, the public’s demand for more aquatic facilities and programs has increased the demand for lifeguards resulting in a nationwide shortage. More people demand the use of public pools for recreation, rehab and exercise. During the summer months with the opening of outdoor facilities the need for lifeguards increases substantially.

The shortage of lifeguards is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Without enough lifeguards, swimmers may not be adequately protected, and the risk of drowning increases. In order to combat this shortage, lifeguard training programs should be more widely available. Additionally, employers should make sure to provide adequate wages and benefits to attract and retain lifeguards.

Visit https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/wheatridge and look for open lifeguard positions if interested in lifeguarding with Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation.

Barb Kloberdanz is the Aquatics Supervisor for Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation.

City Takes Action To Recruit And Retain Lifeguards

Wheat Ridge, too, has been affected by a shortage of lifeguards this past summer and fall, Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation Aquatics Supervisor Barb Kloberdanz told the Neighborhood Gazette in response to an email query.

“This shortage caused some pools to reduce their operating  hours. At this time, there is still a shortage of lifeguards.”

To address that, the City of Wheat Ridge’s 2023 budget included increased funding for five full-time lifeguards. In his column in the February Neighborhood Gazette, Mayor Bud Starker said those would “replace variable part-time positions which have been proven difficult to staff.”

By early January, the city had posted those new positions on its website. Are people now applying, and how will it affect pool hours? 

“Yes we have a few qualified applicants,” said Kloberdanz. “It is difficult to say how it will affect hours this summer. Both facilities need a total of 17 lifeguards from noon to 6 p.m. to operate without restricting hours.”

Kloberdanz said adequate wages and benefits are needed to attract and retain lifeguards, and that is being addressed, too: Parks and Rec has increased lifeguard pay by $1.87 an hour starting in March.

“We are offering sign-on incentives and retention incentives if staff work until Labor Day,” she added. “We offer free membership to the recreation center and other great incentives throughout the year.” 

And, of course, they’re adding five full-time, benefited Head Lifeguards.

–J. Patrick O’Leary

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