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Lifeguard shortage affecting pools across Vancouver

Recent shortage at the Langara YMCA points to larger challenge of finding certified, available supervisors for swim lessons

Langara Family YMCA recently had to cancel swimming lessons. Photo: Darren Amner
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Reported by Darren Amner

Pools in Vancouver are cancelling swimming lessons because there’s a shortage of certified coaches.

The Langara Family YMCA recently cancelled classes due to the lack of available instructors. The cancellations left Brandee Barker, a local mother of two, disappointed.

“I like the YMCA, I like their program. I like their instructors. I just feel somewhere in the administrative level of that organization at that location, something is missing,” she said.

According to the YMCA’s receptionist, some swimming lessons are back in session but due to the shortage, no new students can register until 2019.

Shortage could be symptom of industry changes

Ken Radford, executive director of Swim BC, said pools across the city are being affected.

The shortage is partly due to the fact that aquatic facilities now require their lifeguards to have increased safety training. “To do that certification is an expensive undertaking. It is very costly for those working their way through university,” he said.

Sean Healy, supervisor of aquatics for the Vancouver park board said many of his staff are students who choose to work fewer hours to achieve a better work life balance.

“We start in the $18 per hour range and for our casual staff they get to pick their hours and their days of work,” he said.

A good gig when you get it

Lifeguarding in B.C. pays well and it’s an ideal job for students and a popular second job for school teachers. According to Healy, some lifeguards who get certified come from a strong aquatics background. Others, who enjoy hanging out at the local pool, are fondly referred to as “pool rats.”

Dale Miller, executive director of the Royal Lifesaving Society, said he strongly believes swimming is a life skill everyone should have. The amount of training required is critical because lives are at stake, he said.

According to Miller, certification costs between $1,500 to $2,000.

“The position is one of high responsibility for public safety,” Miller said. “But once qualified, the pay is good and the hours are flexible.”

 

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