Before being hired as a lifeguard or swim instructor, most jobs require training and certifications prior to applying. These are often at the cost and responsibility of the potential hire, but not at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) in Foster City, California.
“We’ve found that offering complimentary lifeguard classes and training upfront, and lowering the cost barrier for someone to get lifeguard certified or swim instructor certified, has been key in helping us stand out from our competitors,” said Seth Hazen, the chief wellness officer for the PJCC. “Our job ads highlight that no experience is needed and that we will provide on-the-job training for someone who is passionate about working with us.”
Hiring passionate employees is important for any job, especially when potential risks are involved. This is why the PJCC takes posting job ads online so seriously.
“To appeal to today’s generation of lifeguards and instructors, it is best to have short job ads,” said Hazen. “Include pictures or a video to liven up the post and keep the written content specific to the job duties needed. Additionally, it is important to highlight the benefits an employee would get working at your pool so you stand out from other pools in your area.”
Another source of recruitment is having an employee referral program. According to Hazen, this has helped with hiring and leads to greater lengths of employment.
Once a new employee is hired, the process of becoming trained and certified begins. “Our swim program was designed as a yearly swim school and as such, has its own unique certification program,” said Hazen. “While we welcome staff who have teaching experience or outside certifications like the American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor certification, we require that all staff go through our 20-hour certification program in order to learn about our levels, the skills in each level, and our methods of teaching.”
In addition to the 20-hour certification program, new swim instructors shadow a variety of staff at different levels for up to three months so they can see their training in action.
“Every instructor brings their own personality and style to our teachings that makes them unique and loved by students, and we welcome that diversity within the framework of our program,” said Hazen. “Shadowing allows each instructor’s best practices to be shared with coworkers.”
Along with their swim school certification, the PJCC requires all swim instructors to be cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certified, as well as participate in ongoing in-service trainings and recertifications they provide to lifeguard staff.
“American Red Cross lifeguarding is the most widely accepted lifeguard certification in our area, so we use guidelines established by this program for our in-service trainings,” said Hazen. Lifeguard training is similar to instructor training, as they are also required to have their CPR and AED certifications.
Additionally, lifeguards go through a similar onboarding process. “Lifeguards will shadow other lifeguard staff or one of our three managers until they complete their onboarding checklist, which ensures competency on pool operations, water testing and emergency procedures,” said Hazen.
Continued training is required and vital to the success of the aquatics staff at the PJCC. To ensure best practices and safety, they hold quarterly two-hour in-service and in-water trainings for both lifeguard and instructor staff.
“These trainings not only cover physical skill learning but also ways to handle interactions with members and program users,” explained Hazen. “Out-of-water topics include, but are not limited to: swim test implementation, recognizing dangerous behaviors — such as breath holding contests or extended underwater swimming — zone coverage and scanning, victim recognition, CPR, AED and first aid scenarios, and activating our emergency response system.”
Another important out-of-water topic to revisit revolves around customer service – being able to answer questions from swimmers and resolve disputes. In-water topics include rescue techniques, multiple victim scenarios and suspected spinal injury.
Also, as part of their continued training, the PJCC holds center-wide emergency drills for their aquatics department, in both table top and live drill scenarios. “Additionally, we recertify our lifeguard staff yearly to ensure the necessary skills are retained and any changes that have been made are known, understood and can be physically handled,” said Hazen.
Because of necessary certification and training, the PJCC fully pays for all trainings and cost of recertification for any required programs, which benefits the facility staff. “This is a great tool for retaining employees,” said Hazen.
So while hiring aquatics staff is a detailed process that requires time and adequate training, when done correctly, this process will benefit your facility and members.