Recreation staff at the Rossland and Warfield swimming pools learned a hard lesson last summer as they struggled to hire sufficient staff to maintain aquatic programs.
This year both communities are getting an early start in its recruitment campaign for the coming outdoor swimming season.
While indoor pools, like the Trail Aquatic Centre, maintain staff year-round, seasonal outdoor pools have to deal with the challenges of laying off staff in the fall and then recruiting in the spring.
In Rossland, recreation programmer Robyn Hethey cast a wide net to try to bring in the experienced staff to run the various pool programs.
“Things are looking a lot better this year. We put out province-wide ads to try to bring some people in,” Hethey said.
“We’ve already hired a pool manager and have picked up some senior staff with two or three coming back from last year. We’ve also got a number of students who were taking courses last year who finished their training and they’re banging on our doors.”
Hethey predicts a full range of aquatic programs this year with a possibility of new additions to enhance opportunities for competitive swimmers in Rossland.
“We’re working with the Stingrays in Trail to try to create a feeder club in Rossland,” said Hethey.
“We’d like to have programs in Rossland in June and July and then they could transfer to Trail after. We’re just working on schedules right now.”
Teresa Mandoli, Village of Warfield recreational coordinator, said they have had job postings in the local papers and on the village website since the end of February but have only had a few applicants so far with the postings closing April 12th.
“There seems to be a shortage of kids,” said Mandoli. “There is a standard certification needed. It costs so much for the courses and it is a long process to get certification. They don’t seem to have the same dedication.”
Hethey acknowledges that the training and certification process is extensive.
“The public might look at lifeguards as just kids hanging around the pool,” said Hethey. “But they have to be highly trained to be able to get the positions.”
Hethey explained that prospective lifeguards are required to take a ladder of courses before they can work in the field, potentially totalling over 200 hours of safety, first aid and lifesaving training.
“The initial training includes the Bronze medallion, Bronze Cross, Standard First Aid with CPR “C”, and National Life Saving, which is the first 100 hours,” Hethey explained.
“The additional courses include Assistant Water Safety Instructor (ASWI) and Water Safety Instructor (WSI).”
The degree of training obtained by anyone interested in becoming a lifeguard directly affects their chances of employment afterwards.
“In ranking the employability of teens with this training having the first four courses is like silver but with the AWSI and WSI as well, that ranks them as gold,” said Hethey. “But it’s definitely not a small commitment dollar-wise or time-wise.”
“All in all we’re feeling good about this season,” added Hethey. “We’ve got experienced staff, who are good mentors to the younger staff and some grade 11’s and 12’s who are hopefully coming back. We just have to keep up the pressure on kids to complete their training.”