No lifeguard shortage expected at Austin pools this year

Barton Springs Pool lifeguard (KXAN Photo)
Barton Springs Pool lifeguard (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — City pools should open on time in Austin this year.

The city’s Aquatic Division Director, Jodi Jay said she’s “cautiously optimistic” in saying so. Her confidence comes from the number of lifeguards on payroll compared to recent years.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that everything’s going to open up on time, but we need things to stay trending the way they are,” Jay said.

Jay’s goal is to have 700 lifeguards on the city’s payroll for the summer. There are still a few hundred openings before that number is reached. Jay said there are already 100 more lifeguards signed on to watch over our families than at the same point last year.

“The struggle is folks don’t think about the summer until the summer is upon us,” Jay said. “A lifeguard class is a 40 hour course.”

Jay said in order to get more students thinking about becoming lifeguards, the city has held aquatics job fairs in several communities. They’re one-stop-shops where kids show interest, apply and interview all at once.

The city has also expanded its SwimATX program. The program is a partnership between the city, Austin ISD, and the Austin YMCA. SwimATX offers free swimming lessons students at two Austin high schools and offers lifeguard certification, all at no cost to the student. Since the program’s roll-out in 2014, 201 students have participated. 152 have completed the lifeguard certification course and 24 of them are currently working as lifeguards in Austin or at the YMCA.

“Hiring lifeguards is not just a city of Austin issue, it’s a nationwide issue, and the city of Austin needs a lot of them,” said Jay. She said the city has had to create incentives to attract more lifeguards. The pay has been bumped to $13.50 per hour and bonuses have been offered.

Lifeguards don’t have to be students. Jays said anyone can apply if they are qualified.

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