Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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State, communities look to attract lifeguards amid national shortage


From start- and end-of-season bonuses to increased pay, the state is reaching deeper into its pockets to ensure it has lifeguards at its beaches and pools this summer.

And the incentives are paying off. Stephanie Cooper, acting commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said the state is on track to fill about 600 lifeguard positions, including at Wollaston Beach in Quincy and Nantasket Beach in Hull.

“There’s no doubt it’s a very competitive market right now. It’s a good labor market if you’re looking for a job, but it’s hard for employers,” she said. “So what we’ve done has put us in a good position.”

Lifeguard James Mahoney, of Hull, holds a lifeguard float  while working at Station 1 on Nantasket Beach in Hull on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

A major shortage of lifeguards is affecting at least one third of U.S. swimming pools, prompting some to reduce hours or close altogether, according to new data from the American Lifeguard Association. Experts blame low pay, training costs, a limited working season and a general lack of interest.

On the South Shore, attracting lifeguards is a bit of a mixed bag, with some communities having little trouble filling the jobs and others having to get creative. 

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$500 bonus for lifeguard candidates

The state this year offered a $500 bonus for qualified candidates who committed to working for the summer by the end of March. The state had weekend lifeguards on 15 beaches as of Memorial Day, including Nantasket Beach in Hull. Lifeguards will staff the state beaches full time as of June 18, and pools come online June 25.

Lifeguards must be at least 16 years old, complete lifeguard training and be certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The agency offers free training classes and certification to lifeguards who commit to summer employment before the season starts.

“These are great jobs where you get to be outside, and it’s a chance to serve the community and interact,” Cooper said. “But it’s a tight market, and how people are choosing to spend time has changed.”

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Lifeguards Joe Krivitsky, of Hull, Meghan Cormican, of Quincy, and Halle McCormack, of Scituate, chat with Hailey Chenette, of Cohasset, the supervisor of lifeguards at Nantasket Beach, while working Station 5 at Nantasket Beach in Hull on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

The state also offers those who stay through the end of the season an additional $500 payment.

Cooper said this helps keep lifeguards at beaches and pools when many high school and college students start preparing for fall sports and heading back to school.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation also raised the hourly rate for lifeguards for the 2022 season to between $21 and $26 depending on position and certifications.

“DCR had some challenges with recruitment last season, so we’ve invested in lifeguards and taken a look at compensation and raised rates,” she said. “Our rates are the highest and most competitive in the country, and our aggressive recruiting has put us in a good position this year.”

For some communities, the state’s recruitment has put even more pressure on finding qualified lifeguards.

Brian Kowalski, program developer for the Weymouth Recreation Department, said the town has put a lot of work into attracting lifeguards for its year-round pool and Wessagusset and Lane beaches. 

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Kowalski said the town last October raised its pay rates to $18 per hour to be able to compete with the state, which was at the time paying lifeguards $20 per hour. The state has since upped its pay and added bonuses. 

“We are almost fully staffed for this summer, but the concern is the fall and having enough lifeguards to staff our pool during the day,” he said. 

Marshfield Beach Administrator Cindy Castro said the town has no problem filling its 24 lifeguard positions. She said the lifeguards typically start at 16 years old and return every summer for four to six years.

“I know some towns have had to increase the pay to get people to come, but we have no issue. There are a lot of kids in town and they love the beach,” she said. “It’s a great job.”

Material from USA Today was used in this report.

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