Philadelphia needs lifeguards — so they’re hiring non-swimmers

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Philadelphia needs lifeguards -- so they're hiring non-swimmers

If a lifeguard saves you in Philly, they may be wearing water wings.

The city is in such desperate need of lifeguards for their municipal pools they are willing to accept candidates that don’t know how to swim, according to Philadelphia magazine.

Officials say they will provide swimming lessons to applicants who are aquatic newbies.

While the idea that their lives may be in the hands of a rookie swimmer may make some bathers nervous, city parks officials tried to downplay the report and assure residents lifeguards will get fully trained.

“We only have to train a handful of folks,” Department Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell told The Post. “I wouldn’t say they can’t swim, they just can’t pass our screening test on the first try.”

The city needs 400 lifeguards to operate its 60+ public pools — and the competition with the private sector to find workers is tough, Lovell said.

“Every fast food place, every retail location is hiring,” Ott Lovell said. “They’re offering signing bonuses, and higher hourly rates.”


lifeguard
Officials say they will provide swimming lessons to applicants who are not confident in the water.
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Philadelphia initially closed public pools in 2020 during COVID-19, then brought them back in 2021 without enough lifeguards — and has since been having trouble getting enough applicants for the $16- to $18-dollar-an-hour job.

In addition to giving swim lessons, the city will also waive certain costs associated with becoming a lifeguard, such as a Red Cross Lifeguard Certification Course.

Philadelphia is not the only city drowning in concern over the lifeguard shortage.

The American Lifeguard Association said in June that the shortage is affecting about a third of the nation’s public pools, leading to limited operations or closure at many facilities. 

New York City also contended with a dearth of lifeguards last year. Only 26 percent of last year’s 900 lifeguard job applicants passed the city’s lifeguard training program test, which some critics argue is too difficult to pass.

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