The popularity of aquatic programs like swim lessons and the pool is way up in Penticton but there aren’t any lifeguards to manage it.
Kelsey Johnson, recreation manager for the city of Penticton, was in front of council last week to provide a second quarter report. Her report showed the interest in aquatic programs and swimming has exploded in popularity. While that would normally be a good thing, as revenue is also up, the city is challenged to find staff.
Since the lifting of provincial COVID restrictions on April 8, aquatic services has experienced “massive” year over year growth, said Johnson.
The pool and aquatic programs saw a 114 per cent increase in the Q2 and swimming lessons saw a 103 per cent growth.
“But we have a severe shortage of staff with the appropriate certification to teach swim lessons or to lifeguard. We are challenged to be able to offer these full services and finding that balance. We are doing are best under really difficult circumstances,” she said.
The pool was closed on Saturdays all summer long due to the lifeguard shortage.
The shortage is mostly due to the pandemic and is being felt across the world.
“We couldn’t train new recruits during COVID so we are behind the eight-ball,” said Johnson.
Also during COVID, the pool was closed or there was limited access. This led to some lifeguards, like so many other jobs, moving on to other careers.
Coun. Katie Robinson was a lifeguard as a teenager and said it was the most fun job she ever had and helped her pay her way through college.
“Can we post to the OC (Okanagan College) that we are looking for lifeguards? I’m shocked in a town between two lakes where everyone grows up swimming here that we would have a lifeguard shortage,” said Robinson.
It’s also one of the higher paying jobs out there, at $24.10 per hour.
Johnson said they are even subsidizing the cost of lifeguard training for those interested but find the fee prohibitive to applying for the job.
The pool is currently closed for maintenance from Aug. 13 to Sept. 5.
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