From managing chemical levels to regulating water temperature to hosting safety trainings for staff, operating an aquatic center is no easy task. Therefore, it is essential to have a team of responsible and reliable staff you can count on to keep the facility running like a well-oiled machine.
At Georgia Tech, the aquatics staff consists of 100 student staff and three professional staff. As Dave Williams, the associate director of aquatics and member services at the university explained, they have developed a comprehensive hierarchy system so student employees can primarily run the facility.
“We have three student managers that have complementary roles,” said Williams. “One oversees operations, which is the scheduling of student employees. We have another one that oversees training, so they provide the lifeguard training, in-service training and vigilance awareness training. Then we have another manager whose responsibility is compliance. Their job is to make sure everyone has the proper certifications and that all of our paperwork is in order so that when we do internal and external audits, everything is where it should be.”
Shift Supervisors — Responsible for the day-to-day activities of the entire facility, which includes five bodies of water.
Head Lifeguards — Responsible for a smaller area, but are learning to be shift leaders and eventually take care of the entire aquatic venue.
Lifeguards and Pool Technicians — The pool technicians take care of chemical balancing and water treatment.
Since students essentially run the facility, with oversight from the professional staff, their jobs come with serious responsibility. Therefore, the hiring process is not a simple one. As Williams explained, they also want to simulate a corporate work environment so students will have an understanding of what the hiring process will be like upon graduation.
“We have a hiring expo where we may receive anywhere from 300 to 600 applications for anywhere from 50 to 100 jobs,” explained Williams. “We put them through the rigors of submitting their cover letter and resume, having a phone interview and then having an in-person interview and a follow-up interview after that. We are looking for a professional demeanor. We are not really looking for their experience because they are students — they don’t really have a lot of experience at this point — but we want to get them to learn how to articulate the experience they do have throughout the interview process.”
According to Williams, the biggest challenge when it comes to hiring staff at Georgia Tech is simply getting them to understand the value in the job. “For us we don’t have a sport management or recreation major,” he added. “So you have someone training to be a nuclear engineer, and they may not see the value in spending their off-time lifeguarding at the pool. So when we do our hiring expo, that is one of the things we are telling them. They are going to get the opportunity to review the work of others, mitigate emergencies, provide oral debriefs and work on written communication.”
When working with students, it is not only about staffing your pool so that everything runs smoothly. As Williams explained, it is also about providing them with a positive experience and those transferable skills they can use once they graduate. “We need to better demonstrate to the campus community, not just the student employees, the benefits of campus recreation employment,” said Williams. “Our colleagues across campus don’t realize what meaningful experiences you can get out of campus recreation. We have to articulate that across the entire campus community so they can see the good work we do in campus recreation, no matter what the job is.”