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LA County raises pay for lifeguards amid recruiting shortage

LA County raises lifeguard salaries to entice candidates
LA County raises lifeguard salaries to entice candidates 02:13

On a warm spring day, Los Angeles County lifeguard Allan Jiménez scans the water at Belvedere Aquatic Center in a mock run without any swimmers. 

This past winter, he completed the county's paid American Red Cross Lifeguard Academy, learning water and rescue skills, CPR first aid and water maintenance.

Jiménez is now paired up with veteran lifeguard Anthony Morales, who three years ago couldn't even swim. 

"I had zero experience in swimming," Morales said. "At first, I wasn't on board because I didn't think I could become one."

However, the county taught him, trained him and now he believes this will be his career. 

"It's not just a side gig for me. It's a lifestyle that I'd love to pursue," Morales said. 

It's a win for him and the county as it looks to grow and diversify its team of lifeguards at LA County's 30 pools and three lakes. 

For three years now, it has not met its target of 500 lifeguards. Last summer, this resulted in some seasonal pools staying open for only three days a week instead of six. That's fewer days for recreation, exercise, heat relief and less time to change American Red Cross national statistics that say 64% of African American and 45% of Hispanic/Latino children have few to no swimming skills. 

"We offer swimming lessons. We want to encourage the communities that we work in to take swimming lessons," area pool supervisor Leonardo Ramirez said. "It just makes them safer."

To entice candidates, the county has raised hourly wages for pool lifeguards to between $23.87 and $25.87. Lake lifeguards can earn $28.89 to $30.50 an hour. 

The county has also made the swim test for lifeguards a little easier and lowered the age requirement to 16 years old.

Anyone interested can apply for admission to a free six-week program called "Lifeguard Ready Training" for ages 16 to 24. No swimming experience is required. It's meant to train candidates who could go on to be certified and one day be hired poolside.

"We want to provide the skills to people that didn't necessarily have access to pools growing up their entire lives and especially around the areas in which we work in," Ramirez said. "We really want to see people of the area working with us. So, we want to provide those opportunities and open those doors."

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