GREENSBORO — It has become an annual ritual across the country: the struggle to fill seasonal lifeguard positions.
Greensboro Parks and Recreation is not immune. In an effort to seed its lifeguard ranks, the department’s Aquatics Section offers free training for people interested in working at its outdoor pools for summer 2020. And they’ll hire teens as young as 15.
And this year, Parks and Recreation will introduce two lifeguard-in-training summer camps for kids 10 to 15 years old. It’s an effort to spur early interest in lifeguarding jobs.
“We want to get beyond just having a program where people show up to swim or to exercise. In this (summer camp), kids will strengthen their swimming skills. They will gain aquatics knowledge all while training themselves to potentially enter this field,” said Kim Porter, recreation superintendent for Greensboro Parks and Recreation.
Strong swimmers interested in paid part-time staff positions can apply for lifeguard jobs now at www.greensboro-nc.gov/jobs. Jobs start at $13.50 an hour. Experienced swimmers can earn more. Summer Camp registration begins March 2 at www.greensboro-nc.gov/summer.
Across the country, cities struggle to fill seasonal lifeguard posts. In recent summers, Durham and Raleigh have had to limit pool hours or close pool locations for lack of skilled staff to keep swimmers safe.
“There is a shortage, there’s no doubt about it,” said Susan Braman, manager of the Greensboro Aquatic Center. “The main reason is that it is very expensive to get an American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification. That just knocks it off for a lot of people. Swimming is not as wide open as working in retail. You have to have some certain amount of skill level. It’s a lot easier to get a job at Target for the summer.”
Case in point: Parks and Recreation’s current applicant pool for 25 lifeguard positions — six people. Its current applicant for its pool cashier positions — 200 people.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” Porter said. “You have to know what you are doing. You have to know how to be prepared to respond in the case of an emergency.”
The American Red Cross lifeguard training and certification process is no joke. Students must be at least 15 years old, be able to pass a swim test, and take more than 25 hours of classes.
Lifeguards need to be recertified every two years. The initial course costs $250. The review course for lifeguards seeking recertification costs $125. The closest either is offered is in Winston-Salem.
But potential Parks and Recreation lifeguards do not need to go to the personal expense to get trained. The city will provide that training for free.
Porter said the potential aquatics staff will get a full skills course to prepare them for the summer. Strong swimmers are encouraged to apply. Work hours can vary, but lifeguards typically work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The Aquatics Section is also hoping to prepare the next generation of lifeguards with a Skill Building Rookie Lifeguard Camp and Junior Lifeguard Camp.
Both provide an introduction to lifeguard skills in a fun and interactive way. Porter said they are ideal for kids who enjoy the water.
Campers will get a swag bag of lifeguard gear.
The rookie camp is a shorter, one-week session for kids who might not yet be able to meet the junior lifeguard requirement of being able to swim 25 yards unassisted.
Junior Lifeguard Camp is two weeks long, and will include field trips to city lakes and behind-the-scenes facility tours. The Aquatics Section is working on possible field trips to see aquariums and large pool filtration systems.
“Part of being a true lifeguard is not just about being on the pool deck. You have to know how the whole system works,” Porter said. “They also learn how to balance chemicals. Going to water treatment facilities just gives you an appreciation for the world of water and how everything functions together.”
Kids that go through the camps will be ideal candidates for Parks and Recreation lifeguard jobs in future summers.