COLORADO SPRINGS — If you plan on heading to the pool to cool off during the next few months you'll want to make sure there’s a lifeguard on duty and to see if the pool is even open. There’s a massive lifeguard shortage once again impacting communities across the country and right here in Colorado.
Right now hiring for any job can be a challenge. It’s a job seekers market. The problem for public pools is that not that many people have their sights set on being lifeguards. Parks and recreation leaders in our state say it’s impacting pool hours and in many cases they’re still trying to hire just days before the official start of summer.
”We are the exception not the rule nationwide because we have a full staff of 15, but of those 15, it was 13 of them were employed in one form or fashion by the pool a year ago either as lifeguards or cashiers and now they are all lifeguards,” said Executive Director of Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District Kyle Horne.
During the summer of 2020 pools were closed and weren’t hiring lifeguards. The pandemic created a shortage of trained professionals to keep pools safe and it has gone on for years now.
As many as half of the 309,000 pools nationwide are either closed or adjusting swim times, according to the National Lifeguard Association.
Unfilled lifeguard job openings are being posted for communities across Colorado right now. The posted pay appears to be from $14.35 to $18 an hour.
”Every public agency has had to look at their pay scales, everyone has had to look at compensation. Do they offer incentives? Which, keep in mind, public pools do not make money. They are subsidized heavily,” said Horne.
While staffing just one community pool in Cañon City is a lighter lift than in larger cities, the planning began months ago to make sure there would be lifeguards at their pool this summer. That planning was centered around retention, fueled by a junior lifeguard program to train and create a pipeline of future lifeguards in their community.
”How can we avoid this issue and create growth in lifeguards for the future?,” Horne said.
Sara Schoenbaum is now a lifeguard and a product of the training in Cañon City. The opportunity is providing her with skills that are proving to be useful beyond the day job.
”Even I have had a few experiences where I’ve had to jump in at a pool party and help someone out. So, it definitely comes in handy for sure,” said Schoenbaum.
Fellow lifeguard Kaelyn Duncan also sees the benefits of what she’s learned here.
”Knowing that if something were to happen, being CPR certified, anywhere, you can use it at any time, not even at the pool,” said Duncan.
She says for her and some of the other lifeguards this summer job is actually a gateway to future career paths.
”You can go into like WSI, or other water safety jobs, so it’s a start,” said Duncan.
In addition to the lifeguard staffing challenges at public pools in our state, the YMCA in the Pikes Peak Region says it’s reportedly understaffed again this year as well.
Visit this link and you can search for lifeguard job openings and see if any are at pools near you, visit Connecting Colorado.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.