The expense of certification may be a barrier to teens looking to step up
Pools in Somerville this summer are bracing for the effects of a national lifeguard shortage.
“This is an urgent issue, we are in dire need of guards,” Somerville Department of Parks and Recreation Director Sue Yerkes said.
The Parks and Recreation team is actively recruiting lifeguards for the City’s indoor and outdoor facilities, promising increased pay, but positions for the assistant pool manager and head lifeguard have remained open for over a month—without any leads.
“We hope to keep all pool facilities open all summer long,” Yerkes said. “We may have to find some creative scheduling to prevent complete closure.”
While the coronavirus pandemic originally caused a backlog in training sessions, the price of certification courses and the wage gap between public and private pools may also be presenting barriers to many teens looking to get involved.
“Certification is a difficult process with a lot of training, and it’s an expensive course. If you’re a 16-year-old, the $400 cost of a Red Cross course is expensive. There’s also a very big wage gap in pay for places,” said Denise Forcellese, director of membership and programming for the Somerville YMCA.
“It’s a pervasive issue that’s really challenging for our staff. They’re being stretched thin and I’m concerned about how it impacts morale and retention,” Councilor Jake Wilson said.
Forcellese said the YMCA has been lucky. “We have staff who are lifeguard instructors so we can train any staff that come in the door. We also have a contract with the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Throughout the school year, we can utilize their guards, winter, fall, spring. [The DCR guards] are seasonal employees for the state, but they can go out to the community during the off-season,” she explained. A smaller pool than the city’s public ones, the YMCA is planning a renovation.
“Going to hockey practice one day is great but isn’t going to save your life one day. Swimming is a vital lesson that will stay with you from childhood until you’re a senior – it’s a healthy activity you can do for your full life.”
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Ryan DiLello is the staff reporter for the Somerville Wire