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Bay Area lifeguards in demand amid nationwide shortage – Times-Herald

Since she was a teenager, Nellie Cazares says relief has been part of her summer routine: early mornings, rescue boards, umbrellas and megaphones, giving constant importance to training.

He started at the age of 15 at the East Bay Regional Lifeguard Park, and is currently a lifeguard training coach. “I grew up in these parks all my life,” he says. “So that was the reason I decided to go back to those places and return to the community.”

Around the bay and across the country, people who run public swimming facilities are desperate to find more Nellie Cazares. But it’s an uphill battle. More than a third of U.S. public swimming pools are affected by the shortage of national lifeguards, according to the American Lifeguard Association. The shortage has also affected the pools in the bay area, with some pools having few staff and others sufficient to cover day-to-day operation, limiting the schedule and reducing the number of water programs on offer.

Lifeguard Emma Lemous, left, has gone to replace Professor Chase Santagagets as people refresh themselves at the Camden Pool in San Jose, California on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Photo: Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)

Officials in the East Bay Regional Park District, which has 13 swimming pools, a beach and a lake, are not suffering from the shortage, as six of the 13 pools are currently closed due to renovations and low water levels. But hiring challenges remain.

“Optimal before the pandemic, most facilities were open seven days a week with a pretty good schedule, but now you don’t see that,” said Pete DeQuincy, water manager for East Bay Regional Park District. “Cannot provide services frequently or for a long time.”

During the pandemic, swimming teams at local institutes were not trained. As a result, lifeguard contractors lost a major source of candidates, DeQuincy said.

San Jose has also managed to hire enough lifeguards to open its public swimming center, including Camden Pool, on time, but without additional staff to cover situations like lifeguard illness or vacation.

“10 years ago, we hired 90 people, no problem. But there aren’t a lot of people looking for lifeguard jobs this summer, ”said Jeremy Shoffner, San Jose City’s Superintendent of Recreation.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: Rikzin Schultens, pool manager and assistant lifeguard, sees people from an elevated lifeguard chair at the Camden Pool in San Jose, California on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Ray Chavez / Bay) Field News Group)
Rikzin Schultens, pool manager and assistant lifeguard, watches from a raised lifeguard chair as the pool cools at the Camden Pool in San Jose, California on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Photo: Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)

The situation in Sonoma County has been worse.

“We’re talking smoke,” said Lesley Pfeiffer, Lifeguard and Recreation Coordinator at Sonoma County Regional Parks. The park planned to hire 10 new lifeguards this year, but by the time the lifeguard training academy began in May, it had only four. Many Sonoma County lifeguards are working overtime, Pfeiffer said, sometimes for nine days in a row.

In response, Sonoma County Regional Parks has limited water programs that need lifeguards, such as lifeguard camps. These junior programs should be a “step” for future lifeguards, but the limited availability of these programs can also pose challenges for hiring future lifeguards.

Lifeguard work can be mentally demanding. The decisions in the second part, the constant thoughts about what could have been done better, and the big responsibilities are a few for young high school or college students. But a job like this doesn’t pay off terribly well, and the region’s low employment rate has offered young people higher-paying job opportunities.

“If they want to find a job, they can work at In-N-Out for $ 25 an hour. Why would they want to take a job that only pays $ 17? ”Asked James Teixeira, director of Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: Lifeguard teacher Chase Santaga is watching people refresh themselves at the Camden Pool in San Jose, California on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
Lifeguard teacher Chase Santaga is looking after people as they refresh themselves at the Camden Pool in San Jose, California on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Photo: Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)

For local officials, the situation calls for a delicate balance between increasing incentives for lifeguards, and keeping pool costs down.

Today, many pools offer a free lifeguard certificate and pay people for the hours they spend in training. Alternatively, applicants must pay between $ 200 and $ 300 to get the job.

“If you’re from a house that doesn’t have a room like that, that’s a great thing,” DeQuincy said.

If more swimming pools, beaches and public lakes are left unclosed or cared for, people who can’t afford the usual $ 15 to swim will not have access to the pools this summer, an option that worries many local water managers. Learning about water safety will become much more accessible for children who are already at a disadvantage.

“We certainly don’t want to close,” Pfeiffer said. “But we’re hurting.”

Bay Area lifeguards in demand amid nationwide shortage – Times-Herald Source link Bay Area lifeguards in demand amid nationwide shortage – Times-Herald

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