Overcoming the National Lifeguard Shortage

lifeguard shortage

Your aquatics department is probably feeling it: the national lifeguard shortage.

On June 7, 2021, The Associated Press reported the American Lifeguard Association had to shutdown certification and recertification classes during the pandemic. Upon reopening, classes were kept small, leading to fewer certified individuals. And on June 29, 2021, the director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association told the Wisconsin State Journal there is a 40% to 50% lifeguard staffing shortage nationwide.

Pools everywhere are trying to incentivize staff and recruit more employees. In this article, “Overcoming Lifeguard Shortages: Strategies to Effectively Recruit and Retain Lifeguard Candidates,” several strategies are given. Two include:

  1. Create a marketing plan. Look at what other aquatics agencies are doing in terms of wages, incentives and professional development opportunities so you can advertise how you stand out above the rest. Also, get creative with how you spread the word. For example, the City of New York held a kickoff party in Union Square one year, playing Beach Boys songs and put out a call during it to recruit lifeguard candidates.
  2. Consider an employee benefits program. The article noted the National Recreation and Parks Association emphasized the benefits of human resources departments who design a benefits package for potential lifeguards. Plus, “offering free training can only go so far if the lifeguards take that training to another facility that offers a more attractive benefits program. Therefore, it may be best for municipal agencies to consider benefits programs that offer significant salary increases and bonuses to attract and retain the guards.”

In the article, “Recruitment 101” from Aquatics International Online, the authors give several other ways to effectively recruit lifeguards:

  1. Run a good program. Ask, “Why would someone want to work here?” Establish a work environment students will want to work in.
  2. Provide opportunities to learn. This can begin even before hiring someone. For example, “create a program that teaches swimming, then guarding, to recruit more people into guarding.”
  3. Recognize the benefit of retention. Create an environment that lends itself to enthusiasm and interest around the job.
  4. Be supportive. For example, back your staff up in the face of a complaining user.
  5. Play fair. Don’t make exceptions for one employee. Treat the whole team the same.
  6. Get creative. Whether that’s building relationships with organizations or clubs full of potential lifeguards, or tapping into current staff members, you never know where possible employees might be. Also, the article noted to “master the soft sell. Provide information about applying to your program along with direct contact information, and then walk away.”

It’s time to think outside the box when it comes to hiring lifeguards in this national shortage.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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