Lifeguards needed at pools, beaches across Twin Cities

Stories of lifeguard shortages are nothing new, as each spring and early summer in recent years, cities and park systems have struggled to recruit.

This year, though, some are upping the ante.  And competitive wages are only one part.

"We hire our lifeguards at $17 an hour," says Heidi Batistich, the supervisor at St. Louis Park Aquatic Center.  "I personally think that’s a pretty good salary!"

She hopes to hire ten more lifeguards from a training class that begins already this Friday.

But what can be a big hurdle to hiring lifeguards, beyond passing the required swimming skills tests, are the high costs of getting a Red Cross certification, which runs more than $200.

This spring, St. Louis Park was among the cities to receive a Lifeguard Grant from Hennepin County.  The city is using the money, in part, to cover a big part of that price tag.

"So making it that $75, reducing that cost," says Batistich, "trying to eliminate barriers for folks that are interested in becoming a lifeguard."

Nearby Crystal received the grant money, too.  They’re going even further, covering the entire cost of the training, as long as the person takes a lifeguard job with their city.

St. Louis Park also added two lifeguard instructors to their staff, so their training schedule can be more flexible rather than rely on Red Cross classes alone.

"So the lifeguard instructors are now able to teach the courses here, instead of doing it during the off-season at an indoor pool," says Batistich. 

"So we’re able now to teach the classes here, so we’re hoping that increases retention and staff."

The classes are intense, as you would expect for a job that is quite literally about saving lives, but there’s been a move to make them easier to manage.  St. Louis Park has moved to a hybrid approach, with a 7-hour online component that precedes two 10-hour days at the pool.

Their next class is this Friday and Saturday, June 16th and 17th.

In Crystal, they plan a lifeguard course that runs the week of June 19th.