City of Temecula Community Recreation Center
City of Temecula Community Recreation Center

The ongoing lifeguard shortage is well known in the aquatics industry, and the City of Temecula, Calif. wasn’t immune to the recruiting challenges.

When the aquatics team took a close look to see how their numbers could improve, they found that several people who attended their lifeguarding class – step one in becoming a lifeguard – didn’t make it to tryouts, even if they did well in classes.

When asked, many said they didn’t try out because the process seemed intimidating, says Melissa Davis, aquatics supervisor for the City of Temecula. So Davis and her team set out to make it less scary and more informative. “I realized this generation needs more information,” she says.

Soft landing

The city added two things to its lifeguard recruiting process: a hiring workshop and a tryout practice clinic.

The workshop provides a soft introduction to lifeguarding. The free virtual presentation, which potential employees and their parents can attend, provides an overview of the division and job, as well as expectations of lifeguards and management.

The practice clinic takes place about two months before tryouts and is open to any interested party, certified or not. Participants practice the tryout from start to finish, and receive feedback from staff. Then a final practice occurs the day before tryouts.

Davis and her staff believed that allowing people to practice ahead of time could only help to improve their skills. “By lessening the intimidation of the process, we were able to have more staff and better staff,” Davis said.

More practice helped potential lifeguards feel confident in their skills, which helps the facility ensure its lifeguards can help others be safe in the water.

In addition to the obvious benefits, this new approach jump started the team-building process. “They were already part of the team before they even got hired, because they had been working with staff throughout this several-month process,” Davis explains.

The City of Temecula further helped potential staffers by giving them interview questions ahead of time. This allows teens time to gather and organize their thoughts and reach out for help.

Positive results

The changes were made in early 2020, but progress was hard to measure until this year, when the center had its first regular summer since the pandemic.

“We were able to have a completely full staff, which is quite an accomplishment if you look across the nation,” Davis says.

In the 2022 season, 33 potential employees attended the tryout clinic and/or the tryout practice day. All joined the staff and completed the summer season. More than 40 potential employees participated in the hiring workshop, and those who continued in the hiring process came very well prepared for their interviews and the positions for which they were hired.

“We really invested in all potential employees,” Davis says. “We started investing in them before they signed the dotted line and got their first paycheck.”

The effort paid off with a higher-performing, more engaged staff.