'Put a crimp in training': Manitoba dealing with shortage of lifeguards due to pandemic

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The consequences of the COVID-19pandemic continue to be felt as the province and country try to get back to normal. The latest complication is related to lifeguards.

Dr. Christopher Love, the water smart and safety management coordinator for Lifesaving Society Manitoba, said there is a shortage of lifeguards throughout North America.

“The effects of the pandemic with swimming pools and waterfronts shut down because of health restrictions during that time, really put a crimp in training taking place and a lot of people that were in the industry, they left for other jobs,” said Love.

On top of the pandemic setbacks, Love said the typical age group for lifeguards – 16 to 23-year-olds – are not pursuing these “classic rite of summer jobs” as they are becoming busier with other activities and have their lives scheduled year-round.

With a lifeguard shortage, Love said the impacts vary depending on the facility, but it can lead to reduced time slots for people to enjoy the pools.

“Then it means people go to less safe places to swim. Instead of going to a lifeguarded waterfront or the lifeguarded swimming pool, they are going to the unlifeguarded waterfront or swimming pool or whatever it is. Those can be more dangerous. They are not supervised, they haven’t been checked for safety by a professional and there’s more likelihood that where we are going to see incidents where people are going to get injured or unfortunately die.”

Love said for people who might be looking at becoming a lifeguard or want to get back into the industry, it’s the perfect time to be a jobseeker because if they have the qualifications, it should be easy to be hired.

“In Manitoba, you need to be 16 to become a lifeguard. So you can start taking the courses now in order to feed into that and then when you are the appropriate age, be able to step out onto the pool deck,” said Love. “It’s not just a young person’s game. This is something where people who are older and may have been lifeguards previously, if they’re willing and interested in coming back, there are opportunities out there.”

To be qualified, Love said people will also need their national lifeguard certification, standard first aid and CPR C certificate. He added for those who already know how to swim and are looking to become a lifeguard, it will take around 120 hours to complete all of the steps needed.

For more information on training and qualifications, people can visit the Lifesaving Society’s website.