YMCA creating incentive to attract new lifeguards amid hiring shortage

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9 has reported about lifeguard shortages across Mecklenburg County, and it’s preventing people from cooling off this summer.

Reporter Gina Esposito found out the YMCA is creating a new incentive to attract new lifeguards -- but this issue could last for years.

Currently, the pool at the Keith Family YMCA is only open for swim lessons and camps, which means YMCA members like Jason Smith -- who has five kids -- can’t use it on hot days unless it is specifically for swim lessons.

“As a parent, you deal with it and you just find other ways to keep them entertained,” Smith said.

Amy Guy with the YMCA said part of the plan to help reopen the pool involves a new incentive program. If a staff member refers someone to an aquatics position -- and they get hired -- that Y staff member with get $200.

To help speed up the hiring process, Guy said they recently partnered with the American Red Cross to host more lifeguard training sessions.

She’s hoping to hire 50 guards by July 4, which would allow the pools to open and extend hours at other YMCA pools. However, Guy said it may be only temporary and that lifeguard shortages could last years.

“We are trying every day to open up the outdoor pool to members,” Guy said. “We will probably see an increase in staffing come July and then in August when we lose our college kids -- probably second week in August -- we’ll see this dip again. Our lifeguard instructors who have left us or were let go over COVID and have made a job shift, we’re going to see that two to three years make up for that lack of instructors.”

(WATCH: Rock Hill seeing shortage in lifeguards as summer heats up)