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While an employee shortage continues to create complications for aquatic centres across Canada — with some even closing their doors — one YMCA is finding innovative ways to find and train more lifeguards. 

In addition to offering more advanced aquatics certification courses throughout the year, the YMCA of Southern Interior BC has also worked collaboratively with local partners and funders to develop programs such as their High School Lifeguard Academies within local schools, and a Lifeguard Development Program which is free for youth aged 16-30 who are looking for meaningful work.  

A young teen in swim trucks stands beside a male lifeguard with dark hair in front of a pool. They are smiling at the camera.

The team at the YMCA of Southern Interior BC believes youth are the solution to the shortage. 

“Lifeguarding is an incredibly rewarding job,” explains Cassandra Thomas, YMCA General Manger of Community Programs. “It is also a lot of fun and sets youth up with foundational skills that will translate to any career they choose.” 

Thomas believes part of their success is attributed to their efforts to make it easier for youth to access training.

“Our aim is to remove barriers so that every young person can access lifeguard training, no matter their financial means,” says Thomas. “With so many options for work the reality is that youth simply aren’t willing to go through the steps to become a certified lifeguard. Some simply can’t afford the financial investment in becoming certified. Our aim is to make it easy and appealing for youth to choose lifeguarding as a job.” 

The result is more opportunity for youth, including vulnerable youth in our community. And it means more pools can remain open as a vital resource for community members. 

The Y’s free Lifeguard Development Program, which is fully funded through government and generous community donors, offers more than lifeguard certifications. With over 25 years of history offering employment services to youth, the team at the YMCA of Southern Interior BC will be providing one-on-one case management, employment readiness services, work experiences, and financial supports to participants. High school students can even use the National Lifeguard Certificate training as high school credits towards graduation. 

Since launching its first summer program in 2020, the YMCA has provided fifty young adults access to these certifications at no cost. 

“If you know someone between the age of 16-30 who is looking for rewarding work, we’d love to hear from them,” says Thomas. “We have space in our upcoming program. The more lifeguards we train the better off our community will be.” 

The Y will also be offering advanced aquatic courses throughout the summer for anyone who is interested in becoming a lifeguard but may not meet the requirements for the Lifeguard Development Program.  

Learn more about these options and the steps to become a lifeguard.