How Bay Area pools are making progress in the push to hire more lifeguards

Lauren Martinez Image
Wednesday, June 5, 2024
Bay Area pools make progress in push to hire more lifeguards
Although demand for lifeguards is high, one parks superintendent said incentives have led to a successful recruitment season this year.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- Whether it's taking a swimming class or swimming for fun - some Bay Area pools are pushing to hire more lifeguards.

At Flying Fish Swim School in Mountain View, they're making an effort to remarket the position as not just a summer job.

Jennifer Winter-Hatch is the program manager.

"We have plenty of open positions now we are always looking we are a year-around swim school so we're always looking for lifeguards to continue with us and stay on board," Winter-Hatch said.

Winter-Hatch said they don't train at their swim school but work with the Red Cross to get their lifeguards certified there.

As a lifeguard herself, Winter-Hatch said it's not cheap.

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"About 40 hours worth of classroom and in-water training, the cost is high it can be anywhere between $300 - $400 for the class the certification only lasts two years," Winter-Hatch said.

At Flying Fish Swim School they incentivize lifeguards by reimbursing those who can commit six months to a year.

"The more training lifeguards that we have that are willing to watch water and watch pools, oceans, lakes, the more that the kids will be safe," Winter-Hatch said.

According to the American Lifeguard Association, the pandemic disrupted training programs.

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Typically, about 300,000 new candidates are trained every year - and that number is now much less.

Sarah Shea is the Parks Superintendent with Santa Cruz County.

"It is a significant issue, we want our pools to be safe our community deserves that," Shea said.

Shea said this year they haven't needed to shorten pool hours because of a staff shortage, but there is a weight list for swimming classes.

"Yes we do not have enough lifeguard swim instructors to accommodate the need of the amount of individuals who want to be in swim lessons," Shea said.

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Although demand is high, Shea said lifeguard incentives have led to a successful recruitment season this year.

"We held multiple free lifeguard training classes for the community so anybody can come in and sign up and we would train you to be a lifeguard. That really was a huge piece of helping us solve our own problem," Shea said.

In February of 2023, they started a lifeguard incentive program. If lifeguards work 300 county-certified hours they would qualify for a $500 incentive.

Shea said they are exploring other job perks as well.

"It is a great thing, we want the community to come out we want them to enjoy the pool, we want the community to come out, we want them to enjoy the pool, but we need these lifeguards who are on deck who can facilitate safety who can teach our young community members safety in the water," Shea said.

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