Lifeguard shortage has NY pools, beaches scrambling to hire

Long Island Beach
Photo credit Sophia Hall

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A shortage of lifeguards across New York State could cause some pools to remain closed, even as the weather continues to heat up.

On Long Island, the demand for lifeguards is so high, businesses are offering $30 an hour at some locations and one day camp in the Hamptons has even offered their lifeguards an apartment for the summer, according to Motti Eliyahu, CEO of Lifeguard Training NY.

“This is the first time I'm seeing people willing to offer what people make at a full-time job, what 40-year-olds make –a $30 an hour to giving that to 16-year-olds,” he said.

Eliyahu says anyone over the age of 15 can become a lifeguard in the state, and he notes that he has trained people as old as 65-years-old.

“What's good is, right now, the young kids are able to get a more valuable job, learn a lifesaving skill,” he says of lifeguard training.

Eliyahu says the demand is so high right now because many people did not stay in shape during the pandemic, and cannot qualify for the class.

“People are not passing the prerequisites for the lifeguarding class as they used to be,” he explains.

Additionally, many lifeguards in the state are typically hired from other countries, and the pandemic has put a pause on many work-related visas from being issued.

“Another issue due to the shortage of lifeguards is the J-1 visas. A lot of companies used to hire lifeguards from outside of the country but due to COVID, a lot of companies are not able to hire lifeguards,” Eliyahu explained.

Those who do pass the 2-day lifeguarding class, however, can immediately find a high-pay job in the current market, he says.

Without the lifeguards, some pools and bodies of water may have to be closed to the public.

In Westchester County, Executive George Latimer says they are trying to avoid closures by encouraging teens to apply for the jobs.

“We’re probably at about a third of what we need to have in order to properly work the bodies of water,” he said. “So we're reaching out and we’re looking for young people, 15 years of age and up, that have the skills and can get the certifications to become lifeguards.”

He notes that some perks of the job is a high hourly pay, the opportunity to be outdoors while working and also getting to be near a body of water during the hot summer days.

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