A national shortage of training opportunities for lifeguards has left many scrambling to become certified or to recertify, making staffing at pools everywhere a challenge.
The Selkirk Pool opened July 1st, and though the city wasn’t immune to the training void, the proactive decision to offer training in-house meant diving into summer didn’t have to be delayed.
Courtney Bangert-Murray, Program Coordinator for the city, is also a lifeguard and swim instructor with 12 years experience at indoor and outdoor pools across the province. She’s got a long list of qualifications, including, but not limited to, National Lifeguard (NLS), Standard First Aid and CPR-C, Aquatic Emergency First Aid and Lifesaving Instructor.
In February, she began taking the National Lifeguard Trainer & Examiner course. She was officially certified this spring, which allowed her to teach and certify others to be lifeguards.
“There are lifeguard shortages across North America and there’s been discussion across the profession because pools are struggling to employ staff post pandemic,” Bangert-Murray said.
Lack of training opportunities throughout pandemic
The internationally recognized current affairs magazine The Economist recently ran a story about the national lifeguard shortage hitting the United States and how it was forcing pool facilities and beaches to restrict hours or remain closed all together.
“A large reason for the shortage is due to the lack of training opportunities during the pandemic. It’s a huge issue, not just at our facility, but in all facilities.”
Since becoming a certified trainer, Bangert-Murray has offered one session of the full National Lifeguard Course to 11 participants, nine of whom are employed at Selkirk Pool. She’s also done three recertification exams for lifeguards whose certification had expired. Lifeguards are required to be recertified every two years.
The Selkirk Pool has 23 staff employed.
The right human capital in place at the right time
CAO Duane Nicol said Bangert-Murray’s qualifications are appreciated and the fact she was on board to take additional training is as well.
“We’re glad that Courtney wanted to expand her skill set and in doing so the city was able to fill a void. Lifeguards who want to be recertified can do so right here in their hometown and those who want to complete that last step to becoming a lifeguard are able to,” Nicol said.
“With Courtney being able to train staff, it builds the city’s internal capacities, and makes us a bit more resilient to the issues that municipalities and pool facilities are facing across North America. This is a prime example of the city working to deliver on our strategic plan. One of our strategic objectives is ‘having the right human capital in place at the right time’.”
The training will be offered yearly to continue to develop new lifeguards and continue to support and recertify existing staff. Nicol said the lack of certified lifeguards has been a challenge in the past for the city.
“While this year the shortage has been much more acute, we’ve had years where we could not find enough staff to maximize the capacity of our pool. This reduces services to citizen and is something we want to prevent.”
Bangert-Murray said the city is also expanding its swimming lesson to include more levels. Previously most of the classes were geared towards younger ages.
Lessons now offered for all ages
The Red Cross announced in January of this year that it would no longer offer swimming lessons and was transitioning those programs to the Lifesaving Society of Canada, a charity that offers water safety education programs including lifeguard training, as well as swimming lessons for everyone from young children to adults through the Swim for Life program.
“As part of efforts to grow and strengthen our lifeguard staffing, we are excited to be offering and expanding on our swimming lesson programming,” Bangert-Murray said.
“With the transition to the new program the city is able to help swimmers develop and complete all necessary training and levels to move to the next step of becoming a lifeguard.”
The expanded programming is also great for anyone who just wants to become a stronger swimmer at any age.
CLICK HERE For more information on the city’s swimming lesson program.
CLICK HERE For a list of all programs offered by the city.