FUN IN THE SUN — Pool goers soak up the sun at the Cloverdale Veterans Hall Swimming Pool.

Pool lifeguard shortage leads to decreased operation hours throughout YMCA

Those who frequent Cloverdale’s swimming pool may have noticed some shifting hours of operation.

The reduced hours and occasional pool closures so far this summer both come down to an overall shortage in YMCA lifeguards. This shortage, according to Sonoma County YMCA Chief Operating Officer Michelle Head is “unprecedented.”

Cloverdale’s pool is owned by the city and operated by the YMCA from Memorial Day to Labor Day. While the hours have been shifted around, Head said that the shift has no impact on the operating agreement with the city.

While the recent shortage in aquatic staff is said to be unprecedented, Head said that the YMCA is still trying to work out how to attract more lifeguards. Traditionally the aquatic department has had good employee retention rates, Head said, but now the challenge is getting people interested.

“Traditionally it’s teenagers who are filling lifeguard shortages,” she said, adding that while students traditionally make up the bulk of their aquatic employment, they’re now looking toward receiving a wider variety of applicants. “Really a lifeguard position could be great if you’re a teenager or a baby boomer.”

Other methods of attracting more lifeguards have proved only mildly helpful, such as upping employee pay. Because applying to be a lifeguard requires attending a training course, Head said that it’s a matter of finding someone who’s interested in tackling the challenge of a lifeguard course.

“It’s a job where people can build skills and save a life — those are pretty amazing things,” Head said.

This shortage isn’t only impacting Cloverdale’ pool. The YMCA also operates a pool at their main Santa Rosa location, which has been impacted in similar ways.

For people who may be interested in becoming a lifeguard for the YMCA but are worried about the $50 training course fee, Head said that the YMCA will reimburse the $50 upon completion of the course and being hired by the Y. She said they will also waive the fee if it’s a financial burden for someone.

As of press time, the YMCA had held a training course earlier in the week that yielded eight participants. However, they’re still looking to hire more people.

“Even though there’s challenges in this field, it’s a great job for the right person,” she said.

Those interested in becoming a lifeguard for the YMCA should contact Pam Rockey at 707-545-9622 ext. 3126.

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