Lifeguard shortages continue at local pools. Here’s what local organizations think are causing it

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Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 07:34:44-04

INDIANAPOLIS — On Mondays and Tuesdays, pools run by Indy Parks and Recreation are closed due to a shortage of lifeguards.

It’s a problem Indy Parks has been facing since the hiring season started.

One expert says the difficulty of becoming a lifeguard could be a reason the shortage is continuing.

Many people aren't even able to pass the test to become one, according to Jordan Elder, the senior manager of aquatics at Indy Parks.

"For you to go through the class, we need to know that you can swim 100 yards — either freestyle or breaststroke. We need to know if you can tread for (a) minute without your hands and I need to know that you can get a 10-pound brick from the deep end of my pool," Elder said.

Those are just what a prospective lifeguard needs to do to be able to take the training required to become one. The training is even more physical.

Trainees will need to dedicate six hours of virtual training which will break down what they will learn once in the water. Both The YMCA and Indy Parks have their own training that they have lifeguards take in-house.

“Even if you do come with Red Cross, Ellis or any other kind of certification, we are going to ask that you do get trained through us,” Elder said.

That way, everyone on our staff is familiar with the same knowledge."

The training Indy Parks requires is $10, but returning lifeguards retake the training annually free of charge.

Indy Parks has increased its pay for lifeguards to $15 an hour, with senior lifeguards making $16 an hour. Senior lifeguards have more responsibility and oftentimes handle chemicals that keep the pool safe for people to swim in. That training is also done by Indy Parks.

At the YMCA, training is free.

"The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis currently uses the YMCA lifeguard training program,” said Jennifer Stoneking, the associate director of aquatics at the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.

“The training includes swimming components, there is CPR first aid and AED training, oxygen training as well as the actual surveillance and actual water rescue," she said.

Stoneking has worked in the aquatics industry since 1999. She said it has seen a decline in applicants for about 10 years. But she also says that isn't the only issue facing the industry.

“The young adult worker that we are seeing now coming into the aquatics industry and the recreating service industry ... they aren't interested in working 35 to 40 hours a week,” Stoneking said. “They are very interested in being part-time."

She says that has caused employers to reevaluate how much staff they need to properly staff pools. That's why pools and other recreation services are changing hours of operation.

“A lot of our facilities are having to maintain lower capacities just due to where they are,” Stoneking said.

Both organizations say they are willing to work with people who weren’t able to originally pass the prerequisites required for training. Indy Parks says they need about 100 lifeguards to properly staff the pools in the city, while the YMCA says they need about 50 lifeguards to be fully staffed. Both are offering sign-on bonuses.

Requirements to become a lifeguard at Y include 27 hours of training which employees are paid for while doing. The training includes virtual and in-person training. Prospective employees must be 16 years of age to be a lifeguard. The Y also has openings for swim instructors and assistant swim instructor positions.

Details on job openings at Indy Parks and the YMCA are available online.