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Beaches, Swimming Pools Facing Shortage Of Lifeguards As Summer Gets Underway

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We're Working For Chicago on the hunt for job postings. How does getting paid to enjoy the sunshine sound?

Many beaches and pools need eyes on their waters more than ever this summer. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory took us Wednesday inside a national lifeguard shortage.

Hot job alert. Literally. Lifeguard chairs across Illinois seem to be harder to fill this summer.

Chicago Park District chief program officer Alonzo Williams told CBS 2 it's difficult to know how many lifeguards he is short right now.

"I know that we have over 700 applications in right now. I don't know how many of those individuals are going to make it through the swim test," he said. That's along with all the other certifications that come with the territory.

To wave off any concern, the Chicago lifeguard application deadline was just extended.

CBS 2 found lifeguard postings from other places marked "urgently hiring."

It's a hunt for heroes. What's going on?

"We are seeing a shortage of recruits [nationally]," said Wyatt Werneth, the spokesperson for the American Lifeguard Association, which provides instruction for guards across the U.S.

"Foreign exchange students were coming in and they were filling the roles for the summer and that's no longer happening [because of the pandemic]."

COVID-19 also ruined recruitment opportunities from junior lifeguarding programs, he said.

Chicago's teen leader programs were canceled last year and this year.

"We get probably about 200- 400 guards from that program every year," Williams said of the Park District's lifeguard situation.

The holes could also be related to money.

The United States Livesaving Association told CBS2 that pay is the most common issue, and it's a recurring problem.

Elgin increased its hourly rate this season to help with recruitment and spokesperson tells us it worked.

Roselle's trick? Offer returning guards a referral bonus to draft friends. A full fleet is ready for opening day on June 12th.

Chicago Park District will assess its staffing levels before opening pools later this month.

Some locations might stay closed if not enough lifeguards are hired.

If interested in a beach or pool lifeguarding position in the City, hurry up. Applications are due Thursday, June 3.

Dundee Township Park District is also struggling to fill positions. Hours at its pools have been shortened while the hunt for 10-15 more lifeguards continue.

Mike Eschenbach, Athletics & Aquatic Manager tells CBS 2 they're offering free pool passes and fitness memberships as a hiring incentive and a $50 referral bonus.

Eschenbach says his crew is about 40 staff members less than 2019's size and to supplement, he's been hiring pool attendants. That position requires less training and less responsibility.


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