WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) — The city of Wheat Ridge is getting creative to try and attract enough lifeguards to fully staff its three pools.
Tuesday, the city posted pictures on social media of its police officers in lifeguard chairs and holding floatation devices.
“Things are getting desperate at the Wheat Ridge Rec Center…they need ACTUAL lifeguards, stat! The shortage means pool closures (really) and cops with floaties (kidding),” the post said.
Over the weekend, Wheat Ridge’s outdoor pool at Anderson Park opened for the summer season. The pool has enough staff to keep it running during regular hours seven days a week. However, the city’s two indoor pools are expected to remain closed until at least mid-July.
“This is not unique to the city of Wheat Ridge. There is a lifeguard shortage nationwide,” Wheat Ridge spokesperson Amanda Harrison said.
Colorado giving funds to help hire lifeguards
Tuesday, Colorado announced $258,000 in grant money has been awarded to 46 communities across the state to help attract and retain lifeguards. Each public pool awarded a grant will receive up to $10,700.
“We are making a splash with this exciting support for lifeguards, part of our ongoing work to make sure that pools can safely open earlier, expand hours and stay open longer this summer. We are thrilled that so many local governments across the state applied for this funding so that families, friends and neighbors can dive right into the summer,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a press release.
Wheat Ridge was not among the cities awarded a grant.
According to Harrison, the city began running into problems hiring and retaining enough lifeguards during the pandemic.
“I think that lifeguarding is not unique to what the rest of the country is seeing in terms of hiring. And there is a higher demand than there are available workers, and we’re not immune to that here in the city,” Harrison said.
She said they have 40 lifeguards on staff and need to hire an additional 50 lifeguards in order to safely keep its outdoor and two indoor pools open.
“We are hiring five full-time, benefitted lifeguard positions. That is the very first time this year and it’s very unusual for any city to have those types of positions,” Harrison said.
New lifeguards offered sign-on bonus
Wheat Ridge is also offering a $300 sign-on bonus for new hires and an additional $100 bonus for anyone still employed at the end of the season.
“This is a great way to start your career if you’re going into like the medical field. It sets your resume apart from the people that you might be competing with. So this is a different type of job than like flipping burgers,” Harrison said.
While teenagers and students make up the bulk of applicants, Harrison said the city is also actively recruiting older workers to become lifeguards.
“We’re encouraging older adults to apply. If you are a retiree and want something part-time, this can absolutely be a role for you,” she said.