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Lifeguard shortage will impact local pools and beaches this summer

The numbers have been going down for years, but lifeguard managers say the pandemic has made this annual problem so much worse.

If you go out swimming this summer, you'll likely see a lot of empty lifeguard chairs.

That's because there just aren't enough lifeguards to go around.

Sarah Chillo is the Aquatics Manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

She says they’re still looking for about 80 lifeguards this summer.

“We’d like to have about 150 lifeguards. Right now, we have around 70,” Chillo says.

Lifeguard shortages are nothing new.

Chillo says the numbers nationwide have been trending down for years, but she says this year it’s much worse.

“We normally retain about 55 to 60% of our lifeguards from one year to the next. This year our retention rate is 12%,” Chillo says.

“That’s an incredibly low number to climb out of.”

She says there are several reasons why the lifeguard shortage is even worse this year.

For one thing, working teens are in high demand right now with several industries struggling to find workers.

Teenagers and young adults have several jobs to choose from this summer.

On top of that, Chillo says many teens are simply deciding to take the Summer off to try and make up for some of the experiences they missed out on during the pandemic.

"A lot of them are saying I think I'm going to go back to checking out concerts, camping, doing things with my friends, and activities,” Chillo says.

“And that is just not working well for a lot of employers right now.”

Chillo says a lot of lifeguard training and certification programs were cancelled during the pandemic.

"Their certification expired and they just didn't renew it because they couldn’t,” Chillo says.

In Minneapolis, Chillo says the city water parks and the Webber Natural Swimming Area will be fully staffed, but she says most of the beaches will not have lifeguards this summer.

"We have 12 beaches in our system. We normally lifeguard eight of them. This summer we are guarding two of them."

The Three River Park District is also experiencing a shortage of lifeguards right now.

A district spokesman says they are currently experiencing many of the same problems that Minneapolis is experiencing and they are working on a strategy to keep as many pools and beaches open to the public this summer.

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