Cities Step Up Perks to Recruit More Lifeguards

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Lifeguard 3
File photo, Athletic Business

Parks and recreation departments in several cities are upping their employee perks in order to recruit more lifeguards as water safety staffing shortages continue across the U.S. 

In Wisconsin, after three summers of lifeguard shortages, the Milwaukee County Parks department is offering new perks and incentives to boost employee rosters. 

WTMJ-TV reported Tuesday that lifeguards attend trainings in January, February or March will take home two free tickets to Milwaukee County Parks attractions, like Cool Waters or the Mitchell Park Domes.

Those who commit to the 2024 Lifeguard Corps in January, February or March could also be entered into a drawing for $100 worth of merchandise and gift cards. Lifeguards who pass water training during those three months and start working by spring will also receive "exclusive swag."

There are also additional bonuses for all returning employees, and for employee referrals, WTMJ-TV reported. 

In Nebraska, the Omaha Parks and Recreation is working to get a handle on summer staffing during the winter. 

KETV reported that the parks department's the new Whistle Ready Program course is meant to prepare people for lifeguard training, whether that be brushing up on rusty skills or learning to swim.

"So, we're hoping to eliminate that barrier for kids and give them the opportunity to learn how to swim for free and then hopefully become a lifeguard for us," recreation manager Chris Haberling said. 

The Omaha Parks and Recreation is hosting several interview events throughout January to help recruit, too. 

In Illinois, Chicago residents who between 15 and 22 years old who take part in the lifeguard training will get $475 as the Park District tries to prevent shortages at pools and beaches.

Block Club Chicago reported Tuesday that the Lifeguard Explorers program, which trains participants to pass the city's required Lifeguard Skills Test, runs Jan. 8-March 1.

The Park District is trying to more aggressively recruit lifeguards after years of shortages, which has led to some pools and beaches being closed or having their hours limited at times.

The Park District opened applications for summer lifeguard positions in early December — the earliest applications have ever opened for the position. Those who want to be a lifeguard must be 16 or older by July 1, pass their skills tests and be certified.

The Park District tried to incentivize more people to become lifeguards last year by raising the average pay and offering a retention bonus, free Chicago Fire FC tickets and a Divvy bike membership to lifeguards.

The current starting pay for Park District lifeguards is $16.19 per hour. The Park District anticipates it will increase hourly pay for lifeguards in 2024, and it plans to offer opportunities for full-year jobs, according to the agency’s website.

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