According to multiple reports, within the last month, pools across Canada have seen a shortage of lifeguards leading to pool hours being scaled back.
Here in Portage? That's not the case, according to The Portage Regional Recreation Authority (PRRA) recreation manager Zapphira Neuschwander.
"I think we're fortunate in having an indoor and outdoor facility which led to us being able to do a lot of training when other pools weren't able to do training. I would say the biggest factor leading to shortages is the same answer as a lot of things, COVID. So, shutdowns leading to less opportunities for recertification or certification courses."
Neuschwander says that she believes facility closures during the pandemic lead to communities having a shortage of lifeguards.
"We were fortunate enough that we were able to still offer a lot of those certification and recertification classes while we were semi-shut down, and so we were still able to ensure that we were going to have staff, and we actually ended up running more during COVID than we ever had before. There was just a demand for it, and people were not able to find other courses. So that worked out well for us."
Neuschwander adds that while they aren't struggling for lifeguards, they still feel the impacts of individuals having to find other opportunities during the pandemic.
"I would say we have a higher percentage of lifeguards that have other jobs as well than ever before. Even though we were trying to retain them during closures, we just didn't have the hours to give them, and they had to find other opportunities as well. So, we're definitely still feeling that."
The recreation manager adds that once a community is behind in leadership courses for lifeguards, it can be a real struggle to get ahead.
"It's really hard to catch up because there are so many courses a lifeguard needs to take to become fully certified."
For those who are interested in becoming a lifeguard, Neuschwander says you can take all of the lifesaving society leadership courses with the PRRA.
"So, they need to start with their bronze medallion and bronze cross courses, and then they would take their national lifeguard course, so it is definitely a couple of steps in becoming fully certified. It's a bit of a time commitment. So the sooner you get started on that, the less rushed it is for you."
While fortunate in not seeing any significant shortage, Neuschwander concludes that more bodies are always good for keeping everyone safe at their pool facilities.