MAPLE GROVE, Minn. -- With the start of spring just weeks away, a nationwide lifeguard shortage is forcing some pools and beaches to make changes.
"We are at a breaking point right now trying to staff everything," Maple Grove Community Center Manager Angie Dehn said.
Dehn said they've hired 32 lifeguards for the summer, but need a total of 50-60 to fulfil summer staffing needs at the water park, pool and Weaver Lake Beach.
The American Lifeguard Association said the shortage could affect anywhere between a third to half of the nation's 300,000 pools, leading some to adjust hours or close altogether.
"We are not able to offer as many swim lessons since pre-COVID, even if we want to go back that far. We're having to limit the beach hours for lifeguarding, and then even in the pool we're having to adjust our hours that we're available be open," Dehn said.
To keep operations afloat, they lowered the age requirement to 15, and are offering free certification training. They've also increased wages.
In Minneapolis, city aquatics director Larry Umphrey said the city is in a better position compared to last year, but are still short up to 80 lifeguards.
"We have enough lifeguard to open all our waterparks this summer, so it would mean less beaches would be open," Umphrey said.
This year, they raised wages by $3 with a pay between $17-$20 an hour.
"When the pandemic hit in 2020 and a lot of the beaches and pools were closed down, the people that did seasonal lifeguard jobs found other work," Umphrey said. "When you can go to Menard's or Home Depot and make $20 or $22 an hour, working there is a different job without the certifications and qualifications."
Ally Hammann is one lifeguard who stuck around, now heading into her seventh summer in Maple Grove.
"First, you get like amazing people skills, first-aid skills, and you stay fit all summer," Hammann said.
The YMCA is holding an in-person job fair next Tuesday in St. Paul. Applicants interested in working in Minneapolis can find open jobs here.
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