116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — In an effort to stay afloat amid a nationwide lifeguard shortage, the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department is looking to hire 45 more lifeguards to operate the Bever, Jones and Ellis municipal pools this summer and has boosted wages to better compete.
Cedar Rapids is not alone in facing a shortage of lifeguard applicants, which threatens to put a damper on its phased openings of municipal pools. From Arizona to Wisconsin, media reports show pools around the country are struggling to recruit lifeguards as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and communities work to catch up on a training backlog.
Lifeguards who are currently hired will staff the larger city pools. Noelridge Aquatic Center is scheduled to open starting Memorial Day weekend. Cherry Hill Aquatic Center begins daily operations June 2 after a June 1 kickoff evening swim.
Those larger pools are opening first as they allow for more social distancing and higher capacity, the city previously announced. Bever, Jones and Ellis Pools are slated to open the last week of June in the afternoons — but first the city is recruiting lifeguards to staff them.
Cedar Rapids has trained over 95 people in lifeguarding classes since November, with at least 50 of those individuals set to work at the city pools, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said. But with pools closed last summer in the pandemic, and not as many lifeguards to return for another summer as a result, the city needed to recruit and train more this year than usual.
In hopes of drawing more applicants, the city boosted lifeguard starting wages to $12 per hour — up from $10 initially — to compete with other businesses, some of which also have raised pay to entice workers to apply. Businesses nationwide are seeing a struggle to recruit employees as COVID-19 vaccinations increase and in-person operations begin to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“Within the lifeguarding world, it’s a flexible schedule job, it’s a fun job, so there are some other perks that we feel are with it. So we hope that $12 makes us really competitive against some of those fast food industry ones that are struggling as well,” Hock said.
Offerings at the three smaller pools that are planned to open at the end of June will be made depending on ultimate staffing levels, Hock said, but the goal is for the city to be able to open all three.
While no season pass is planned to be available this year, the city is offering a $78 non-refundable pass with 20 punches. It may be used by an individual, a group or transferred to another person for any age-appropriate open, family or adult swim. It expires on the 20th punch or on Sept. 5.
Purchase passes at Bender Pool, at Cherry Hill or Noelridge Aquatic Centers, or online and pick up at Northwest Recreation Center. Find the schedule and information on daily admissions at crrec.org.
A financial-assistance program is available for those who qualify for discounted recreational programs and swim punch passes. Call 319-286-5566 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for information on the qualification process.
Additional incentives are available for Cedar Rapids lifeguards this year. To qualify, the individual must be age 15 or older, submit an application, be hired by the city, attend required training and work at least part-time through June.
- A reimbursement of up to $120 on the lifeguard certification class fee
- A $50 reward for having a friend sign up and take the lifeguard certification class with you
- Wages increase by $2, $3 or $4, respectively, for the last three weeks of the season, if the worker remains in good standing throughout the summer
Cedar Rapids will hold a seasonal job fair from 5 to 7 p.m. May 18 at the ITC Pavilion in Noelridge Park, 4900 Council St. NE, by the lagoon. There, department staff will discuss job openings at golf courses, parks, programs and pools; answer questions about the hiring process; and conduct interviews. Individuals may complete applications at the site or apply online at bit.ly/CRSeasonalJobs.
The city hires individuals age 16 and above for golf and parks seasonal labor, and age 15 and above for lifeguards. Golf cashiers and parks construction laborers must be 18 and above. Hiring continues through the first week of June.
Hock said the city did not offer lifeguard classes during the pandemic, but officials started the training again recently as case numbers have fallen. and are working to get a few more classes in.
As long as applicants know how to swim, Hock said, anyone interested can take the class to learn how to be a lifeguard. Some applicants may already have lifeguard certification and not need to take the classes, he added.
“We’re really working to try and get as much back safely this summer as we can,” Hock said.
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