Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Hiring Lifeguards for 2024 Summer Season

Offering bonuses to overcome shortage. Training starts in January.

By - Nov 28th, 2023 06:35 pm
Bradford Beach, July 25th, 2009. Photo by Dave Reid.

Bradford Beach, July 25th, 2009. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Parks has begun searching for lifeguards for summer 2024.

The department, responsible for more than 40 pools and splash pads, has struggled to find enough lifeguards in recent years, like many other park and aquatic systems across the country. Training sessions for the 2024 season are open for enrollment and the first one begins Jan. 3. The sessions last roughly two weeks and will be held into April.

“The ability to work in the sun all summer, while earning great pay and incentives, presents an incredible opportunity for young people in our community to grow and develop while making memories that will last a lifetime,” said Guy Smith, Executive Director at Milwaukee County Parks, in a statement announcing the open lifeguard recruitment.

The COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard on recruitment, disrupting swim classes, lifeguard trainings and recertification courses. With pools across the county closed and Bradford Beach unguarded for lack of lifeguards, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors responded by increasing hourly pay and funding bonuses and incentives to bolster recruitment.

The new pay structure went into effect in 2022 and since then the number of lifeguards Parks has recruited has slowly increased. In order to open every pool and guard the beaches, Parks would need approximately 200 lifeguards. When the department began opening pools this past summer it had fewer than 100.

Starting pay for county lifeguards is $17.13 an hour, and the department offers bonuses to returning guards or those who successfully refer someone else to the job. Parks is looking for candidates who are at least 16 years old, in good physical shape and able to swim 100 meters in 1 minute and 45 seconds or less. County lifeguards go through in-water training, a civil service physical performance exam, an emergency medical responder course and on-site training sessions throughout the summer.

“Working at our Milwaukee County Parks over the summer is a great way to become more engaged in the community, while earning a paycheck at the same time,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “I am encouraging our young people to apply for the 2024 lifeguard class and join our excellent team at Milwaukee County Parks!”

The 2024 Milwaukee County budget also included funding for a new staff position within the department and one of the position’s duties will be to work on lifeguard recruitment. The new lifeguard recruiter will promote and attend events throughout the county promoting Parks’ aquatic jobs and programs, along with recruiting for other seasonal and maintenance positions. The Milwaukee Parks Foundation is funding half of the salary for this position. The budget for next year also includes funding to operate five deep well pools during the summer and two indoor pools during the winter.

For Parks, recruitment isn’t the end of their challenge of hiring lifeguards. In the Milwaukee area, as in many others, there is a dearth of strong swimmers who are also interested in working as lifeguards. The attrition rate for 2023 lifeguard training classes was high. Of the 76 that signed up for winter training, only 10 finished.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

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