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More lifeguards being hired at London pools amid high demand | CBC News



More lifeguards being hired at London pools amid high demand | CBC News

Despite many youth struggling to find summer jobs this year, lifeguarding positions are in high demand in London. Officials say aquatics facilities in the city have already hired hundreds of lifeguards this summer — with room for more. 

To combat the national lifeguard shortage, the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario launched a lifeguard training academy at its Centre Branch in downtown London, with more than 1,000 people already enrolled since it started last July. 

“There’s very much a high demand, and we want to make sure there’s enough guards in our region in order to provide safe pools because that’s our ultimate goal,” said Denis Giles, general manager of aquatics for YMCA of southwestern Ontario. 

The program trains people to become lifeguards and swim instructors through courses required by the Lifesaving Society of Ontario — the provincial governing body for lifeguards. The Y has around 300 lifeguards employed at its eight swimming pools across the region, with a goal of increasing that number to 400 to get back pre-pandemic levels, Giles said.

The City of London is fully staffed for the summer with 225 lifeguards at its indoor, outdoor and wading pools. There are online job postings for 100 casual lifeguard positions as it prepares for fall programs, said Lisa Brandie, the city’s head of aquatics. 

Last summer, London’s pools employed approximately 180 lifeguards. That number was even lower in 2022 with 120 lifeguards.

“Recovery from the lifeguard shortage was mostly impacted by time that allowed people to obtain the necessary certifications. It also allowed for lifeguards to recertify awards that may have expired during COVID-19,” Brandie said. 

Changes to lifeguard age helpful, provincial body says

Last year, the Lifesaving Society of Ontario certified almost 21,000 lifeguards across the province. It’s a sharp increase from around 17,000 in 2019.

The rise in numbers is partly due to the provincial legislation, which reduced the age limit for people to receive their national lifeguard certification to 15. Prior to June 2023, they had to be 16 years old before getting certified. 

“This created a positive situation where we’ve seen more lifeguards certified than ever before,” said the society’s spokesperson, Stephanie Bakalar.

Brunner is one of more than 1,000 people who enrolled in the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario’s lifeguard training program to receive his national lifeguard certification. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Max Brunner, 25, has been a lifeguard at the YMCA since September. The job’s flexible hours allow him to balance work with his school program, and build on his confidence, he said.  

“I love working with kids and it really built my leadership skills which I was definitely lacking,” said Brunner. “Especially since COVID, I was mainly in my basement not doing all that much so it really helped me get out of my comfort zone again and be able to talk to people.”

Bakalar believes in addition to being a a stable summer job, lifeguarding also helps people learn various skills they apply to other areas of life, she said. 

“There’s the obvious things like safety, CPR and swimming skills but a lot of what you do as a lifeguard is interact with people, so you’re building lots of skills like leadership and public relations. Those are the things that will follow you as you build your career.”

London’s new policy, taking effect in September, will require anyone renting city-owned pools to have at least one municipal lifeguard on duty at all times.

“Lifeguarding is an extremely important job. First and foremost, lifeguards keep swimmers safe while participating in aquatic recreational opportunities and they teach the valuable life skill of learning to swim. This helps to ensure people are safe around water,” said Brandie.

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