Lifeguard positions need filling
Mar. 8—Finding certified lifeguards these days is not easy. People like Paris Wyland-Kuntz, Tyler Diesch and Nicole Fairfield know that intimately.
Fairfield trains lifeguards to earn Red Cross certification through her business, Brunswick CPR Lady, and said every year, she sees firsthand the challenges faced by businesses and agencies seeking to staff their pools or beaches.
"This is a nationwide issue right now," Fairfield said.
The American Lifeguard Association said in 2022 the shortage is affecting about a third of the country's public pools and facilities, prompting some to remain closed through summer in some cases. The association credits the pandemic, which canceled training courses for two years in some areas, and that people left lifeguarding jobs for others in the hospitality and retail industry when pools were closed.
Wyland-Kuntz is the program manager of beach operations for Glynn County Recreation and Parks. She said the shortage was noticeable in 2020 and 2021 when the county had a difficult time filling its roster of lifeguards. Diesch saw the same thing at the Neptune Park pool on St. Simons Island that he manages. With opening day at the pool on May 27, and the beaches soon to be crawling with tourists, both are on the hunt to fill all available positions for the summer. So far, things are looking good, but openings still remain.
"This summer we are already doing pretty well on lifeguard applicants," Wyland-Kuntz said. "It seems people are more interested and ready to take on this summer job."
It's a job Fairfield used to have in the summers, which is why she wants to help fill positions locally by offering two free lifeguard certifications to worthy individuals this year during her annual lifeguard training courses.
"Someone paid for me, and to be honest, I wouldn't be where I am without it," Fairfield said. "It's a great job to have because it's one of the only for which teens need certification. It gives you well-rounded experiences and teaches leadership and how to be part of a team at the same time."
Her classes are between 15-20 hours of hands-on training over two weekends combined with an online component through the Red Cross. Students will learn first aid, become CPR and AED certified, and learn life-saving techniques to use in the water. It costs $250 to complete the certification course, which Fairfield knows can be a burden for some individuals. So she is offering to cover that cost for two interested people this spring. Her classes begin in early April.
"You can take it wherever you go, even if you move," Fairfield said.
People interested in getting certified or in applying for one of the free certifications she is offering this year can email Fairfield at BrunswickCPRLady@gmail.com. She will perform a randomly generated selection process, but applicants must meet a couple of basic requirements like being 15 years old and passing the Red Cross lifeguard swim test.
Fairfield said she can provide more information upon request.
At the county, Wyland-Kuntz and Diesch frequent job fairs to recruit new lifeguards and offer training to earn Red Cross certification to new hires.
Pool lifeguards must pass the Red Cross Lifeguard Certification test before they can begin work with the county. Beach lifeguards must past that as well as the Waterfront Certification test to patrol the shoreline.
"We encourage people to apply as soon as they can," Wyland-Kuntz said. "Our application opened in January and remains open unless we have filled all of our spots."
To apply to work with Glynn County, go to GlynnCounty.org/jobs. Opening day for lifeguards at the beach is May 26, so Wyland-Kuntz said applying earlier is better.
"I would encourage people to apply now to secure their job and guarantee them adequate time and plan and train," she said.