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Lifeguard shortage could be dangerous to Manitoba swimmers, society says

Click to play video: 'Concerns over lifeguard shortage'
Concerns over lifeguard shortage
WATCH: "We're already seeing that some facilities are cutting back on their hours, the number of swimming lessons they offer..." Dr. Christopher Love from Lifesaving Society Manitoba talks about a lifeguard shortage impacting swimming facilities – May 11, 2022

An essential job sector is facing a shortage of workers in Manitoba, according to a representative of its governing organization.

Christopher Love of the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba said a dearth of lifeguards around the province has a lot to do with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a combination of factors driving the shortage,” Love told Global News. “Part of it was we had widespread shutdowns through the pandemic, and that restricted the amount of training people could take.

“With those shutdowns, a lot of people left the industry. They went and found other jobs, because the places they worked normally were closed.”

Read more: Canadians feel waves of nostalgia as Red Cross swim program winds down

Love said the traditional recruitment demographic for the industry — young people between 16 and 23 years old — is finding itself pulled in many directions these days, and youth may not be willing to go through the amount of training needed to become a qualified lifeguard.

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“It’s not something you can just walk into,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily as attractive to people if they have to get training upfront before walking out on the pool deck.”

The effect of fewer lifeguards, he said, means some facilities — both at local waterfronts or swimming pools — will have to cut back on services, which could result in more danger for swimmers, whose numbers haven’t dwindled.

“People are going elsewhere — to less-safe places to swim. That could relate to more injuries, more deaths … which is something we want to avoid.”

Love said being a lifeguard is a great career path for young people — counting lawyers, politicians, doctors, and even an astronaut among those who have previously held the job.

“Employers in future careers will look favourably on people who have gone through the process,” he said.

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