SAN DIEGO — The national lifeguard shortage is not just impacting San Diego beaches, but city pools are also in dire need of new lifeguards.
"We need more lifeguards, we need about 100 more lifeguards across the board,” said City of San Diego aquatics district manager Nicole McNeil, who started as a lifeguard 22 years ago and made it a career.
"We will work with you, we will mentor you, we will teach you how to swim, we will prepare you to be in a lifeguard training course and work as a pool guard in maybe 3 to 6 months,” McNeil said.
Jacari Jenkins answered the call and recently became a pool guard at 18 years old and wants to be a pool manager. He likes how the city provides other opportunities for job growth.
"You kind of have to step up and be willing to take a challenge. It's a difficult job, but it is a good job, and it is what people need,” said Jenkins, who plans to go to college for biochemistry.
“You need something to do, why not serve the community at the same time. Working retail is cool, but I was raised to give back, and you could be on the cash register for two or five years, but here, you could be a swim coach,” said Jenkins, a Mission Bay High School graduate.
American Lifeguard Association says this summer a third to half of all public pools in the U.S. could close or cut back hours due to a nationwide lifeguard shortage.
The City of San Diego is scaling back hours and classes at its all 14 City pools due to lack of staffing. They are also offering incentives, such as paid training and a bump in pay for the $15 to $17 an hour lifeguard salary.
"The pool guards just got a 10% pay increase this year and we are working to get additional increases and working to create additional full-time positions, like we have recreation aids who work the front desk, there are opportunities for all ages," McNeil said.
The San Diego Jackie Robinson YMCA needs 20 lifeguards for its newly constructed pool that opens next month. So far, they've hired one.
"If they apply and upon completing training, it is a guaranteed job offer,” said
YMCA aquatics director David Kreamer.
YMCA pool guards start at $18 an hour for anyone 16 years old and up. They'll have to complete a tryout and 4 days of paid training to be CPR, first aid, AED and water rescue skill certified.
"It can get pretty busy, but we provide the support, and it is a team effort. It is a very important job, and I think it is a fun one,” said Kreamer, who has been a lifeguard for 14 years.
Kreamer says water safety is important to the surrounding Lincoln Park community, who has not had a nearby pool since 2016 when the old Jackie Robinson YMCA was torn down.
"We do you have a large community around us with non-swimmers, and so this is going to be such a great offering of swim lessons, lap swim and lifeguard training courses," Kreamer said.
The Jackie Robinson YMCA pool ribbon cutting ceremony will be Friday June 24 at 10 a.m. but the pool won’t officially open until swim lessons begin on July 5.
Also, on June 24, the City of San Diego will host a career fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Balboa Park Club.
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