Courtesy Farmers Branch Aquatics Center

Farmers Branch Aquatics Center recognized that the lives of its employees extend past the walls and fences of the facilities and that, even while on the premises, their work hinges on more than their job skills.

For this reason, management has begun offering life skills training in addition to teaching job skills. And, as the team does undergo in-service to hone their job skills, it takes time at each session to do exercises that promote bonding among staff.

“We take the time to grow our staff into a family, building trust among each other, which in turn creates confidence and helps with communication in an emergency,” says aquatics manager Paul Macias.

Knowing that their jobs will leave young workers with many skills that transfer to other professions when they start their careers, Macias and his team decided to do even more to help young employees become confident adults.

“Not every kid who works for me is going to be a lifeguard for their career,” Macias says. “I want them to be set up for success, not only here but outside of our job. We want to help them be the best version of themselves.”

Game of life

Macias decided to begin offering life skills training when he saw some workers struggling with simple finances.

“We had switched over to a digital payroll system,” he explains. “So we had to get everybody signed up for direct deposit. I noticed everybody was struggling. I said, ‘Let’s sit down and have guest speakers come and talk about life skills.’”

These talks are presented at least once a month during swimming season. Most of the guest speakers come from the staff of the aquatics center or other city agencies.

For the first session, a representative from the human resources department discussed resume building.

“That was a huge hit,” Macias says. “They asked a lot of really good questions.”

The assistant finance director gave the next talk, this one about credit-card management, loans, retirement, and how to build your credit score. Again, the younger employees soaked up the information.

Other talks have addressed how to set up a profile on Linked-

In, and how to manage social media in general to look professional.

Career boost

When interviewing job candidates, the management at Farmers Branch Aquatics Center will ask about their career aspirations. With this information in hand, the team tries to match employees with city workers in the same field to meet.

“If they want to work in the Fire Department, for example, we will introduce those employees to our lifeguards,” Macias says. “They sit down with our lifeguard, give advice, and answer questions.”

Another lifeguard wanted a career in cyber security, so Macias introduced him to the person who handles that for the city.

“We try to find that information or provide resources where they could grow with us,” Macias adds.

Next year, Farmers Branch plans to continue offering these presentations and mentoring. Macias hopes to find somebody from a skilled trade who can talk about their career.

With these life skills in hand, lifeguards and other aquatics employees will appreciate the value of their tenure even more than before. And they’ll come back for another season if they can, even with all the competing — and sometimes better-paying — employment opportunities out there.

“I want something that makes me stick out,” Macias says, “where they are going to say, ‘Hey, my pay may not be as much but I’m getting extra knowledge from this job.’ They know that we are investing in them as employees, even if they’re seasonal.”

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