Lakewood and the surrounding communities are having a hard time finding lifeguards and swim instructors to staff summer aquatics programs.
“We’ve had years were we had to hire only four people, last year we had to hire 15 and this year we have to hire 45 to 50, and that’s out of 80 to 90 jobs,” said Cris Redic, aquatics supervisor with Lakewood Recreation. “We’re really scrambling to have enough people to staff the pools and run the programs.”
Kim Henderson, the aquatics supervisor with the Foothills Parks and Recreation district — which is just south of Lakewood, and includes Littleton — said that this is the first time in six years the district is struggling to have the nearly 200 staff that is needed.
Lakewood has four indoor pools and three indoor pools that will open in the summer, as well as a spray park. Foothills has four indoor pools and four outdoor pools that will open in the summer. All these pools — especially the ones that will be opening in the summer, need staff to keep them open.
“Sometimes these things are cyclical, and there will be times when our retention isn’t great,” Henderson said. “We’re also not able to pay as much as other places, but this is the worst we’ve seen it in a while.”
Redic said that part of the problem may be that some of the costs for becoming American Red Cross certified — which all swimming employees must be — could be a deterrent, but Lakewood has decided it will reimburse those who take the class.
“The way it will work is the person pays for the training, and once they’ve worked with us for a month, we’ll reimburse them for their training costs,” Redic said. “We want to make the training and its costs as little of an obstacle as possible.”
Both Lakewood and Foothills will be getting more aggressive in their marketing and search for new hires.
“We have information on our website, and we’re using Facebook and Twitter for the younger people who use those,” Henderson said. “Chattfield, Dakota Ridge, Columbine and D’Evelyn are nearby, so we’re hoping we can get some members of the swim teams to help out.”
Redic said being a lifeguard and swim instructor are great summer jobs, and that employees will learn things they can use in other careers.
“Skills like learning CPR or how to use AEDs (automated external defibrillators) can be transferred to other fields,” he said.