Courses have been cancelled and staff hours are climbing, as Rossland and Warfield’s swimming pools grapple with a lifeguard shortage.
“This year was the first year where it was a real struggle to find enough staff,” said Lauren Bergen, head lifeguard at the Rossland pool. “But it has definitely been a struggle to keep most of our programs.”
As a result, some classes and extra activities—like floating movie nights—have been cancelled.
Some of the lifeguards have been commuting between Rossland and Warfield so that the communities can continue to receive swimming lessons and use the pool. In fact, a lack of applicants this summer forced the City of Rossland to issue a province-wide call for applicants.
“Everybody is already at maximum hours so it’s hard to do extra things that would set the Rossland pool apart,” Bergen said. “We’re sharing an instructor for camps because a lot of people like to do lessons up here because they don’t go to Trail as much.”
But Robin Hethey, the City of Rossland’s recreation programmer, is looking for a solution.
“We’ve introduced some new positions,” Hethey said. “It’s sort of like being a cashier, but you get experience doing pool maintenance and helping out with some of the lessons. We’re hoping that this program will motivate some of the kids.”
This year the City of Rossland hired five employees for part-time cashier positions in an attempt to motivate them to complete courses in lifeguard training.
Another perk Hethey mentioned is that students in B.C. may use their lifeguard training towards high school graduation, and the certifications are transferable throughout Canada.
“Depending on the applicant’s age, it can take four or five years to become qualified,” Hethey said. “And because we live in a mountain community, becoming a lifeguard is a long road—physically, mentally and financially.”
Youth who continue to receive training for guarding will gain as much as $5 more per hour when they move up to lifeguard or instructor positions.
In Rossland, lifeguards earn $15 per hour and lifeguard/instructors earn $16.50 per hour, but in urban centres guards can earn roughly $25 per hour.
“Hopefully these new positions will encourage them to continue training so that they can get a guard position, which means they get paid more and there are more hours. It’s a little bit of a reward for how far they come in their course and a bit of support to keep going and get the rest of these courses.”
Alternatively the Trail Aquatic Centre has been “fortunate” this summer, and hadn’t had any difficulties hiring lifeguards this season, according to Victoria Gladue the aquatic coordinator.
In order to qualify for lifeguard positions, applicants are required to have certifications like the Bronze Cross, the Lifesaving Instructor credential and the National Lifeguard Service Award (NLS).