City of Trail, B.C., to offer free lifeguard training in hopes of re-opening its pools on weekends
A swimming facility in B.C.'s West Kootenay is offering free lifeguard training in hopes of hiring qualified staff and re-opening its pools during the weekends.
The Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre has been closed on Sundays and Mondays since Feb. 26 due to a lifeguard shortage.
Trisha Davison, director of parks and recreation with the City of Trail — home to about 8,000 people, about 11 kilometres north of the Canada-U.S. border — says the city is funding five certification courses worth an estimated $1,800 in total per person for people interested in working as a lifeguard for the aquatic centre.
"There's a host of services that are not able to be provided to the degree that we normally would have seen," Davison told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.
It's one of several pools across the province that have had to cut back on opening hours due to staffing shortages.
In December 2019, the B.V. Regional Pool in Smithers — about 370 kilometres west of Prince George in the north — had to close on Sundays. Today it's been closed on Mondays instead, and also occasionally on other days of the week when there are further staff shortages.
In Prince Rupert on the northwest coast, the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre also cut back on swim lane hours since last September, making them available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only.
As pools closed under health restrictions during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, lifeguard training and certifications were halted as well.
Alleviating cost barriers
Among the certifications needed to work as a lifeguard are the Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross, National Lifeguard, Standard First Aid and CPR-C. For lifeguards working in Trail, they must also have completed the Water Safety Instructor certification.
These certifications, valid for two years, allow their holders to work at pools, waterfronts, waterparks or surfs across the province. They take several months to complete.
According to Davis, the aquatic centre is currently running on about one-third the number of employees pre-pandemic, because it hasn't been able to recruit qualified staff.
She says she hopes offering courses for free would alleviate the cost barrier for some aspiring lifeguards.
"We did a call for interest to the community to get a sense as to who's out there that might be interested in coming and becoming a certified lifeguard, and we have an interest list of 10 to 12 people right now," she said.
Some residents have welcomed the initiative.
"I love that they're offering this," said Sarah Patershuk, who has worked as a lifeguard at Trail's aquatic centre for years.
"Hopefully this initiative will allow some people who couldn't otherwise afford the courses the opportunity to get into lifeguarding!"