South Jersey pools, beaches and summer camps struggle to find lifeguards

As temperatures rise and school systems countdown to summer vacation, community pools, beaches and swim clubs are beginning to open around the state — but many of them still need to fill vacancies for lifeguards.

Vineland began advertising for lifeguards in February, promoting calls for applicants on Facebook, in an effort to secure staff for the outdoor Plum Street swimming spot.

A lack of lifeguards is threatening to keep the City  of Vineland municipal pool, just off Plum Street, closed this summer. May 31, 2022
A lack of lifeguards is threatening to keep the City of Vineland municipal pool, just off Plum Street, closed this summer. May 31, 2022

But for a third summer season, the entrance is padlocked.

It’s frustrating to Dale Elbeuf, the city’s recreation superintendent, who made an appeal to the Vineland High School Swim Team.

Not one qualified applicant has come forward, and it would take six to fully staff Plum Street, Elbeuf said. The positions remain posted on the city’s Personnel page, offering pay between $13.35 and $15 per hour, depending on experience. To be considered, candidates must hold lifeguard, first aid, and CPR certifications.

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Katz JCC in Cherry Hill is also hiring lifeguards for the summer for a starting wage of $13 per hour. They opened their outdoor pool last week, and will open full time outside on June 27.

"It has been challenging, but we're getting there," said Zach Riley, aquatics safety coordinator. Riley anticipates they'll be fully hired up in time, but said the challenge has been finding people to fill weekend shifts.

Gloucester Township, on the other hand, is set for the summer, in part because the recreation department tabled at local high school job fairs, in addition to spreading the word on social media, said Diane Jones, recreation supervisor.

The municipal pool opened Memorial Day weekend.

Jones said they offer training and certification on site, which aids in streamlining the hiring process as opposed to requiring candidates to already possess all the required trainings.

"It is a process to even just go online and find a class that fits with your schedule," said Jones of applicants. "If you don't drive yet, finding someone to take you back and forth to those classes a couple of times, you know, can be just daunting. And so people decide it's just not worth it."

Classes are generally at least 20 hours, and cost between $250 and $350. Whether the cost  is covered depends on the employer, explained Billie Hernisey, owner of Middle Atlantic Safety Training, an American Red Cross licensed training provider for Lifeguard and CPR training.

He added that because lifeguards had trouble finding recertification courses last year, when few training providers were running during COVID, these previously certified lifeguards are now going in different directions and taking other jobs.

"There don’t seem to be enough lifeguards to go around to all of the facilities that need them in order to safely operate," said Hernisey.

Izzy Koyama is a community storytelling reporter for the Burlington County Times, Courier-Post and The Daily Journal. Reach her at Follow her on twitter @ox_fur_comma.

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This article originally appeared on Burlington County Times: Pools, beaches in South Jersey struggle to hire lifeguards