I pride myself on a willingness to experiment, so when our human resources analyst presented an opportunity to work with a nonprofit employment placement agency, I was excited to try something new.
The idea was that we would reverse our hiring process, making employment selections prior to the candidates having any certifications.
The agency would pay cash for us to run a lifeguarding class that we typically heavily subsidize. Those we accepted into our class would be guaranteed employment for a minimum of one year. Best of all, we would be training our own staff.
That was my attitude before I realized what was involved in having to manage a federally subsidized grant.
First, the grant funding required a 100 percent match with cash or in-kind services. The main cash benefit from the agency was spent on the hard costs that we usually have participants pay, including textbooks, pocket masks and Red Cross fees. Though the city received some cash, it was dwarfed by the time I spent on post-program reporting and accounting.
The training lasted less than two weeks, but the grant period was arbitrarily set at six months, which meant that I had to unnecessarily complete and submit time-consuming monthly reports six months after the program had ended. I was also required to sign a 150-page contract weeks after the conclusion of our program.
I probably would not have hired four of the 10 candidates if we had followed our typical hiring process. Unfortunately, that meant that given the stipulations of the grant agreement, when one of the new
lifeguards decided it was appropriate for him to leave his guard tower and join the water polo team he was supposed to be guarding, we could only suspend him for six months.
In the end, though the experience in the short term was challenging, it has actually worked out well. Several of the guards are still with us and, for the past four years, we’ve had the luxury of selectivity, hiring only the top lifeguard candidates.