The city is proposing to subsidize lifeguard training for low-income applicants as one way to tackle the lifeguard shortage.
The total cost to train as a lifeguard, which includes courses in lifesaving, lifeguarding, first aid and swimming instruction, is about $2,500. If approved by city council, up to 90 per cent of the course fees could be covered. This would mean, if 15 people got the subsidy, it would cost the city $33,750.
The annual attendance at Richmond’s four swimming pools is 880,000, which requires about 300 lifeguards/swimming instructors to operate.
A city staff report notes that the shortage in lifeguards in Richmond – something that has been widespread in the Lower Mainland this past summer - has been partly mitigated by cancelling some swimming lessons, normally taken by 9,700 Richmond residents annually, largely children.
There were some reductions in pool operating hours in 2020 and 2021 and early 2022. But the city said it’s managed staffing shortages through overtime and occasionally closing off some water features.
Swimming lessons were reduced when pools re-opened in 2020 and are currently still reduced from normal levels.
In addition to subsidized lifeguard training, the city is looking at creating two new positions – a swimming instructor, who wouldn’t necessarily need to be qualified as a lifeguard, and an aquatic attendant to operate the waterslides at Watermania and South Arm Pool and to work as an activity leader at birthday parties and special events.
The city had to close some pool features this summer because there weren't enough lifeguards although hours weren't reduced at any pools.
The lifeguard training subsidy, if approved by city council, will be a one-year pilot program.