Pilot program offers free certification for lifeguard, water safety instructors
Two Palm Beach County agencies are jointly launching a pilot program for free certification for lifeguard and water safety instructors amid a shortage of them.
On Tuesday, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners approved allowing pool space and staff for training at pools run by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County will cover the processing fees for certification.
Certification costs to become lifeguards and water safety instructors can range from $175 to $400.
“This is truly a win-win-win," Dr. Lisa Williams-Taylor, CEO of Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, said in a news release. "A win for teens looking for summer jobs. A win for kids who need swim lessons or just want to enjoy a pool on a hot summer day. A win for the community because it helps protect our children around water."
Jimmy Davis, director of aquatics for Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, said: “Our goals are to remove financial barriers that exist with becoming certified, eliminate lifeguard shortages in our area and ultimately reduce the number of drownings. What more could you ask for?”
Starting in April, plans are for one lifeguard class and one water safety instructor class to be taught per month. They typically are three days, and participants must take a pretest to make sure they are physically able to carry out the job duties.
They are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Palm Beach County employs 66 year-round lifeguards and 40 seasonal lifeguards for 14 ocean park sites ranging from their 20s to early 60s. Part-time ocean lifeguard pay is $19.89 per hour.
Information on ocean lifeguard training can be found on the Parks and Recreation website.
County pools are Aqua Crest Pool in Delray Beach, Lake Lytal Family Aquatic Center in West Palm Beach, North County Aquatic Complex in Jupiter, Pioneer Park Aquatic Center in Belle Glade and Santaluces Aquatic Complex in Lantana.
The pandemic forced shutdowns of lifeguard certification and re-certification classes for more than a year, leading to shortages.
One-third of positions were vacant last summer and that number may rise to 50 % at some county pools.
This has led to a reduction in children's swim lessons. In 2019, the county offered 3,441 swim lessons and that dropped in 2022 to 1,938.
Free vouchers are available from the Drowning Prevention Coalition, which is funded by the County and CSC, but they often can't be used because of unavailable classes.
Scripps Only Content 2023