Plans by the District of Taylor to open its swimming pool later this month have hit a snag.
Like many employers post-pandemic, the district is facing the challenge of hiring new employees – in this case, lifeguards.
In a report to the recreation committee Monday, and later in the day to Council, Community Services Director Ryan Galay suggested the pool's opening be pushed back to next year.
Traditionally, the pool is put together, like a large jigsaw puzzle, inside the Taylor curling rink around the May long weekend.
“Due to Covid-19, there is a provincial shortage of lifeguards and swim instructors that have caused numerous aquatic centres across Canada and BC to reduce operations,” stated the report. “The shortage has been felt in the region as well, with closures happening at the regional pool (North Peace Leisure Centre) due to a shortage of staff.”
Believing there might be some challenges in recruiting, CAO Moira Green told Council the district began the process a lot earlier than they might have in a normal year.
“We posted all of our jobs for about six weeks and we received four applications. Of those four, three of them were high school-aged (students) and one person, an adult, wasn't adequately certified.”
To operate, a certain number of certified staff are required at the pool, at any given time, and while the district did reach out to other facilities, a viable option couldn't be found.
“It's really unfortunate that we had to delay the opening until 2023,” said Mayor Rob Fraser. “You have to have qualified staff and we just weren't able to do that.”
From the discussion, however, came the idea of approaching School District 60 on the concept of having lifeguard training as part of the curriculum at schools like North Peace Secondary.
“As Ms. Green (CAO Moira Green) noted, we're pretty sure it was present in the school curriculum before. It is a hugely beneficial program both for all of the places and pools that would be looking for lifeguards, but for the students themselves,” said Coun. Betty Ponto. “That's an amazing job opportunity for them even if they're continuing on to university or whatever their path might be.”
Council has asked staff to investigate the idea further, in advance of a pool opening in 2023.