AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Aquatic Division is in search of up to 650 lifeguards for the upcoming summer season.

Division leaders said, under normal circumstances, some positions would already be filled since training is typically in November. Because of the pandemic and the restrictions, however, officials said they had to wait. Training is now slated to begin this weekend.

That delay sets the division back nearly five months. Officials now have a short window to recruit, train, and have lifeguards ready for this summer if they hope to open up all of its 43 public facilities that are operational. Big Stacy Neighborhood Pool and Bartholomew Pool won’t open this year due to structural and plumbing issues caused by the winter storm in February.

Not only are aquatic officials having to recruit more people on shorter notice, but the pandemic has also caused the department to have to make changes in how they train. One of the biggest changes is having smaller class sizes. That can cause a problem because they have more people to train, but can’t have a big group. DeAndre Cain, the division’s recreation program coordinator, said it’s all hands on deck to get lifeguards trained and ready.

Other changes include buying additional lifeguarding equipment so no one is sharing. They will also require lifeguards to wear masks when not in the water and they will restrict the lifeguarding area from pool-goers to keep people socially distant and safe.

Cain, a former lifeguard turned instructor, said things are constantly changing but they’re doing their best to adjust.

“My hope for the summer is to open as many facilities as possible safely with well-trained staff prepared to do their jobs, prepared to help someone out if they’re in need, and just give people a safe place to swim,” Cain said.

Back in 2016, the city had to close some pools, reduce hours at others and even delaying the opening of some because they didn’t get enough people to fill all the open positions.

Those interested can apply for jobs with the Aquatic Division by applying online for the lifegaurd positions and more.

  • Jobs start at $15 per hour.
  • Applicants must be 15 years of age or older. 
  • Applicants must complete training and certification to be hired.
  • New and returning lifeguards must complete the application and hiring paperwork before they can register for training.

Those at the Aquatic Division said roughly half of those applying are teens between the ages of 15 to 19.

Last summer, during the height of the pandemic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of employed youth, those between the ages of 16 to 24, was down from the previous summer. However, the unemployment rate for youth overall was 18.5% in July 2020, – nearly twice as high as a year earlier.

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