Nassau County is opening up some of its lifeguarding positions to certified 15-year-olds in an effort to fill about 100 vacant positions.
County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Nassau shared the same issue as municipalities around the nation, all scrambling to fill open positions at the start of summer.
The county currently has almost 200 lifeguards to oversee its numerous pools as well as swimming at Nickerson Beach. Blakeman says they need about 100 additional lifeguards.
“We are doing everything we can to recruit lifeguards,” Blakeman said Saturday, standing at the complex in North Woodmere Park that features three pools, a spray park and a waterslide. All county outdoor pools open on Monday.
“We're having free certifications, free training and now we've lowered the age for lifeguards in the wading pools to 15 years of age so that we can get more people into our lifeguard program,” he said.
Pay for lifeguards at county facilities starts at $18 an hour.
According to the American Lifeguard Association, the current lifeguard shortage is impacting about one-third of pools around the country. Officials with that group said it could get worse when many lifeguards return to school in August.
The shortage stems in part from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when pools were closed and lifeguard certifications were halted for a time, officials said.
In addition, temporary work visas — vital for helping seasonal workers from overseas get employment in the United States — where also on hold during that time.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a boost in pay for lifeguards at state-run pools and beaches. At downstate facilities, such as Jones Beach, starting pay will increase from $18.15 per hour to $22 an hour.
Suffolk County officials didn't immediately respond to a question about lifeguard staffing at county pools and beaches.
Lifeguards at Nassau County beaches and pools must have a current lifeguard certification issued by the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums. An up-to-date medical exam is needed before testing for any of the different levels or grades. There are different performance tests for lifeguarding at pools, calm water bathing beaches and ocean bathing beaches as well as supervisory lifeguard positions.
Some college kids may have a shorter summer break and are working at fast food restaurants, where they don’t need certification, Blakeman said. But he thinks more young people would apply to lifeguard if they knew about the opportunity.
“It's a great job,” he said of lifeguarding. “And you're performing a very important safety function by safeguarding our pools. So it's very rewarding.”
For more information about lifeguard jobs for Nassau County pools and beaches go to nassaucountyny.gov/parks