Albany Area YMCA working to close lifeguard shortage

One way the YMCA is attracting lifeguards is by offering incentives.
Published: May. 21, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT|Updated: May. 21, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - As summer approaches we’re seeing yet another big impact of the labor shortage in America – swimming safety.

Across the country, there is a major shortage of lifeguards, and that’s impact is being felt in South Georgia.

Swimming is a life skill and something that experts suggest for anyone who spends time in the water. But a lifeguard shortage is making that more difficult. It’s estimated the national lifeguard shortage last year impacted about one-third of the public pools across the country.

“My favorite part mostly would be the kids that come in, just because we get so many camps and you know kids have so many different personalities. So it’s fun to interact with them, and most of our lifeguards do work as swim instructors also, so we have the ability to teach them as well,” La’Treasure Jackson, certified lifeguard and interim aquatics director at the Albany Area YMCA, said.

The Albany Area YMCA is in the process of recertification for those in the community. One way the YMCA is attracting lifeguards is by offering incentives.

“We will be providing a bonus, not only paying for the guard’s certification if they obligate to work at the Y. But we will also be offering a $200 bonus, half of which is paid upfront after successful completion of the training and the other half at the end of the summer,” Dan Gillan, CEO of Albany Area YMCA, said.

There are certain qualifications needed to become a certified lifeguard including paid training under the American Red Cross manual, but it also teaches you other life skills.

“Probably one of the hardest parts is just ensuring safety all the time. And only because you have to be very vigilant and very active in your awareness and just thinking being proactive and not reactive,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that this job provides more than one benefit.

“As a lifeguard, when we get these certifications we have a duty to act. So lifeguarding not only teaches our lifeguards to be alert and pay attention to the water and doing their scans effectively, it teaches them about care,” Jackson said.

The YMCA is working with other organizations to fill the gap of lifeguards where they are able to provide training for everyone in the community.