Like much of the labor market, the pool industry is faced with the mounting challenge of adapting to solve for the next generation of workforce development. Facility managers and aquatic directors alike report it has become increasingly difficult to attract and retain young people to the pool and spa industry.
A new breed of worker has evolved with unique expectations of the workplace. This younger worker is no longer as interested in having a job per se as in having a purpose and making an impact. Work is less about collecting a paycheck and climbing the ranks than about personal growth and making a difference. Rather than a boss, student employees are more often looking for a coach to help them grow personally and professionally.
This means campus aquatics facilities are in a unique position to nurture and attract new recruits. Campus facility operators — like Cassie Mae Honey, the assistant director for aquatic operations at Texas A&M University — are finding that even though the industry can be stressful and demanding, student workers take confidence and dive deeper when provided with tools to succeed both during and after their studies.
Public perception of aquatic workers and the many public health concerns involved in the work itself can pose a hiring challenge for aquatics facilities. Students often feel the pressure of the job is not worth the small hourly wage. Honey understands the stress and how it impacts retention, and she responds by setting reasonable and clearly defined expectations. Clear expectations let staff focus on the immediate value and the career potential of their work.
When choosing staff, Honey looks not only for physical skills but for diverse backgrounds and experiences. A diversity of perspectives allows for fresh ideas and contributions that make a team stronger and more responsive. This diversity helps improve overall camaraderie and resilience among staff when faced with the inevitable stresses of the job.
From a campus context, Honey can focus on providing leadership opportunities, teaching transferable skills and setting practical learning outcomes. This emphasis on student development is a determining factor for retaining student workers for several years, and Honey embraces the challenge by promoting professional development.
Additionally, student aquatics workers can access other tools to bolster their own expertise while studying, and campus operators can provide direction to turn the job into a career by starting at home. Encourage coursework in chemistry, business administration and environmental health. Facilitate conference attendance so your staff can build a professional network prior to graduation. And to help present their academic credentials on a skills-based job market, incentivize staff to seek industry certifications outside of their studies.