A five-year effort to increase the number of lifeguards at the leisure facility begins this week with a first class of students signed up to take three training modules this summer.
Six applicants had shown an interest in taking the training, the cost of which will be paid by the District of Houston in return to committing to a minimum 18 months of employment.
“This is a five-year funded project which would see the potential of having 30 guards trained over that period of time. That would be amazing for the facility and the lifeguard community,” said District of Houston leisure services director Tasha Kelly of the plan to train six lifeguards a year.
Houston, as with many communities, has had a growing challenge to have enough lifeguards on the payroll to maintain normal programming.
But because lifeguards are typically secondary school students or young people in post secondary education, smaller communities such as Houston face a specific challenge because of a relatively small youth population grouping.
So having the District cover the $2,000 cost for a person to take the training in return for the 18-month work commitment is one way to encourage young people to sign up.
“By providing these courses as subsidized, it removes a financial barrier for lots of youth,” Kelly said.
But, she added, lifeguard employment should not necessarily be regarded as something just for young people.
“It is inclusive for all ages, lifeguarding is a wonderful career for any age! Lifeguarding courses open many doors to new opportunities when lifeguards are ready to move on,” she said.
“We have had many go on to become teachers, paramedics, nurses, social workers and even a jail guard. Lifeguarding gives you people skills, leadership skills, first aid knowledge/certification and public speaking skills. So it is fantastic for a resume.”
Kelly had been planning to begin the five-year program last year but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic put it on hold.
The first module, which takes place over four days this week and four days next week, is for students to earn a bronze medallion and cross certification. That will be followed by a sessions in August covering first aid and national standard lifeguard certification. A further water safety instructor module is also planned.
“We currently have 11 guards on staff. Typically, we have between 10-15 guards. Numbers and needs fluctuate depending on guard availably, programs running and swim times,” said Kelly of the leisure facility’s current complement.
“Often if we have a small staff with limited hours, our programming has to be toned down to accommodate that.”
Kelly said the leisure facility strives to accommodate high school student lifeguards by being flexible in its work schedule.
It is very important to us that staff are still able to compete in high school sports and attend to their studies as needed.