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
The idea was that we would reverse our hiring process, making
employment selections prior to the candidates having any
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
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
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.