By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s not the news you want to hear just before summer, but some local cities are scrambling to find enough lifeguards to keep pools open.

Recreation Supervisor of South St. Paul Mercedes Miklya gets calls every day from anxious swimmers wondering when the pools will be open. However, she isn’t about to answer the question the way they’d like.

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“We normally have between 18 and 20 lifeguards this year we only have six currently,” Miklya said.

It means she’ll likely only have staff for the splash pool at Lorraine Park, keeping the pool on the north end of town closed.

“We lost a lot of applicants due to our pools being closed last year. That’s been quite the struggle. A lot of our old lifeguards have gotten new jobs because they needed a job over the summer,” she added.

The YMCA is feeling the pinch, too.

At 23 YMCA locations across the Twin Cities and Rochester, 400 lifeguard, swim instructor and coaching positions remain open.

Swim certifications expire after two years, and in most cases, 20 hours of training is also required first.

The YMCA is offering special incentives to cover those costs and looking to pull from a new talent pool.

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But, locations will likely be forced to limit some capacities come summer.

“We have raised our starting wage to $14.25 just prior to the summer so we’re trying to incentivize when it comes to pay,” said Shannon Kinstler from the YMCA.

South St. Paul has also raised its hourly wage, as Miklya hopes their luck changes to keep their summer afloat.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking that we just can’t find the staff to lifeguard,” she said.

The YMCA told WCCO that not all positions require the same time commitment for certification.

Those who hold a current Red Cross Lifeguarding certificate or an expired one (between March 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021) can renew their Lifeguarding certification by taking a provisional lifeguarding review class. Typically, lifeguards must hold current certification to take the review course.

Some additional information is available here.

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To apply for a position with YMCA, click here.

Liz Collin