Donald Trump suspended new J-1 ….
Donald Trump suspended new J-1 visa applications. This presidential order was extended in December and expired in April 2021.
“Typically, we have a lot of overseas staff that come to patrol our beaches and our water parks in the summer, and because of the pandemic, those staff are not available to come over on their visas,” said Lindsay Mondick, water safety specialist for YMCA.
And according to Sabeena Hickman, president and CEO of the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, there’s also currently a backlog in the processing of temporary J-1 work visas that typically brings in summer workers from abroad to fill jobs. She said that Covid-19 travel restrictions limited who could enter the country, and “embassies were shut down. People weren’t in the office processing the visas. So I think that’s more of the leading factor.”
Furthermore, according to a PHTA Alert, “generous unemployment benefit assistance programs coupled with the fact that many potential U.S. employees are reluctant to seek jobs that require direct interaction with the public have further complicated the labor shortage.”
Some have noted that even those prospective lifeguards that do apply, simply can’t swim very well.
“We’re at a point where we might be able to get 20 or 30 people into a training class that want to work as a lifeguard, and only two or three of them can pass the swim test,” said Jim Tarantino, Director of Recreation for Milwaukee County Parks, which is only opening four of its 12 pools this summer because of lifeguard staffing.
Life Time, one of the largest employers of lifeguards nationwide which typically employs between 3,000 to 4,000 lifeguards at its 110 health cubs, has turned to social media to get the word out.
“The lifeguard shortage is very real, especially here in the Phoenix market, because we’re opening up all of our pools right now,” said Jackie Flores, Regional Aquatics Manager at Life Time. “We are doing a big marketing play via social media, and we’re hoping to advertise some of the benefits of being a team member at Life Time including a complimentary membership, paid trainings, and best of all they don’t need any experience to be a team member with us, we’ll teach you how to do everything.”
In Austin, Texas, there were only 150 lifeguards for the entire city by the end of May - just 20% of the 750 needed for full coverage. The city alerted community members that it did not have enough lifeguards to open all of its pools for the beginning of June citing the need to train, certify and hire more candidates.
And the problem isn’t limited to public swimming pools, either, but is also occurring at lakes and beaches.
On May 21, Park Director Guy Smith announced that not one Milwaukee beach will have lifeguards this summer.
Many municipalities are offering incentives to get more lifeguards to work, with wages going up everywhere, and bonuses for referring friends.
Easton’s Beach in Newport, Rhode Island, is offering up to $20 per hour for lifeguards, and beach employees can also get an additional $3 per hour added to their hourly rate for working on weekends through Labor Day, according to Newport’s website. The city will also reportedly offer reimbursement for lifeguards undergoing training programs for certifications for CPR and first aid, according to the Newport Daily News.
The St. Louis, Missouri Parks and Recreation Department has been going to churches, rec centers and high schools to tell people they have good employment opportunities. They also have an employee referral incentive program.
But despite active headhunting and such incentives, demand for lifeguards is not being met by supply, and the need is not expected to recover any time soon.
'It’s going to be a long process. It’s probably going to take us a good year to really bounce back from this.” said Jodi Jay, the City of Austin’s aquatic division manager.
Lifeguard Training with the American Red Cross Photo Credit: www.redcross.org