Lifeguard shortage leaves some pools tall and dry | Entertainment / life
Local and national pools are facing an unprecedented staff shortage.
Last year, COVID-19 restrictions prevented many swimming pools from opening for the summer. This year, the big challenge is the lack of lifeguards.
“There is a massive shortage of lifeguards right now, not only locally, but nationally,” said Rachael Jonas, general manager of aquatic activities for the YMCA of New Orleans. “I’ve been in watersports for 18 years and this has been one of the most difficult years we’ve ever had trying to recruit staff.”
Jonas said she sees many reasons for the shortage.
“A lot of these students may be unemployed this summer and be fine,” she said. “We have also seen a lack of access to lifeguard certification training due to social distancing guidelines.”
Rob Dowie, president of SELA Aquatics, a company that manages and operates eight private and public swimming pools in the New Orleans area, including UNO Aquatics and the Cool Zoo, said he was also seeing a lot of families who had missed out. summer trips with their teenagers. with them on trips this summer, leaving fewer teens looking for work.
“We only got 60% of the applications we received in 2019, when we didn’t offer any incentives,” Dowie said. “This year we’re offering a $ 600 signing bonus and a lifeguard training reimbursement of $ 300, and we’re still struggling to attract people.”
Lifeguard pay starts at $ 8 an hour, Dowie said, and can go up to $ 13 an hour; most guards work 20 to 30 hours per week.
Dowie said he was still short of 100 lifeguards to his typical need of 300 lifeguards for the summer.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize that you only need to be 15 to be a lifeguard,” he said. “So maybe broadcasting that will help.”
Dowie said he hopes he won’t have to restrict hours due to shortages, but other organizations like NORD have been forced to close swimming pools. NORD plans to open 12 of its 17 basins, citing staff shortages.
Jill Doucet, administrative coordinator for Bayou Segnette State Park, said the Bayou Segnette wave pool was scheduled to open on the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend, but now she’s not sure that’s possible.
“We called all the high schools in the area and sent out flyers,” she said. “So far, we have not yet received a single application.”