No Swimming? Calling all lifeguards and aquatic center operators
While the City of Charlottesville is expecting to finally open its pools and aquatic centers safely this year, a continuing lifeguard shortage might make that impossible. Recently, the City posted a Request of Proposals seeking to outsource the operation of the Onesty Fitness Aquatic Center located at Meade Park, and according to Charlottesville Parks and Recreation deputy director Vic Garber, the City may have to do the same for Washington Park Pool.
"Due to the national and local lifeguard shortage we are exploring our staffing and operational options," said Garber. "The Smith Aquatic Fitness Center is expected to open soon, and we may have enough guards to open that, but we don't see the numbers of applicants that we will need to open Onesty and Washington Park Pool at this time for summer."
This was a problem that surfaced last year, and while exacerbated by the pandemic, it's been a trend for a while, as the number of recreational protective service workers has declined sharply since 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there's also been a general decline in labor force participation of 16- to 19-year-olds over the last two decades, that age group has been in high demand for a variety of industries due to labor shortages during the pandemic. Many localities were also unable to launch successful recruitment campaigns or lifeguard certification programs during the pandemic.
"I sincerely hope this situation changes soon." says Garber, "but we do need to explore every option possible, and the Request for Proposal is a viable option."