While looking to increase its daytime lifeguard staff levels and increase programming options, the Aquatic Unit for the city of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, achieved both in one bold, creative stroke.

Recognizing that many of its employees attended school and were unavailable during the day, the city sought a way to bolster its lifeguard crew so it could increase daytime programming.

The result was a program solely for adults, with the only prerequisite being the ability to swim 250 meters. From that starting point, supervisors guided the students through seven courses, all the way through certifying them as lifeguards.

The course was offered at no charge for adults, who agreed to work a full year at the facility. Students who didn’t want to commit to those terms had the option of paying $1,000 for the cost of training and certification.

“The program came from our needs,” says Denise Beard, Burlington aquatics supervisor. “We all had these ideas of increasing programming, but the key to doing that was increasing the staff.”

Through a series of advertising campaigns, job fairs and media coverage, the city attracted people who were available to train and work during the day. “We targeted stay-at-home moms and people who were free during the day,” Beard says.

To make training more comfortable for the adults, a pregnant mother was given the task of molding the group of mostly 30-somethings into lifeguards.

In the first year, 15 adults completed the course and became certified, allowing the city to offer more swim lessons and longer recreational swim times at the city’s four pools. The program was so successful that the city now has a waiting list of people who want to participate.

One of our judges found the concept so appealing, he thinks the National Recreation and Park Association’s Aquatic Branch, as well as other national aquatics organizations, should consider promoting similar programs.