La Crosse pools seek to fill lifeguard chairs as summer approaches

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Finding staff for the city of La Crosse pools was a challenge last year.

“We had a good amount of staff, but we definitely needed more,” said Kate Kroll, who works for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

This year, the city is facing the same problem.

“We have three different pools that we need to hire for,” Kroll said. “Help is hard to come by right now. We definitely need more lifeguards than what we have. We need a lot more just to be able to run at full capacity.”

Pools aren’t the only places trying to hire. The jobs situation is fueling an employee market, said Teresa Pierce, executive director of Workforce Connections.

“It’s going to be a tight market,” Pierce said. “There will be job openings all summer long — we anticipate the retail supply needing more people to work, and that there will not be enough people to fill those jobs.”

Pierce said it may be hard for some places to attract staff because of competitive wages.

The city of La Crosse was able to increase wages last year.

“Last year there was a group that donated money to give lifeguards a raise, which is huge,” Kroll said.

Lifeguards now are paid $10-13 an hour. That may not be enough — especially for returners, Pierce said.

“Once they get some experience and they can get that at jobs that are making $15 an hour, they tend not to go back into those entry-level positions,” Pierce said.

Kroll hopes to recruit enough lifeguards so pools aren’t left with empty chairs.

“We would like to have everybody by May so we can do training and lifeguard certification,” Kroll said.

Despite their best efforts, Pierce says it’s likely that many places will be left short-staffed. The best way for places to attract employees is to offer them flexibility, she said.

“They want the going rate, and they want a work-life balance,” Pierce said.

For pool workers, the city offers a refer-a-friend program, aquatic staff awards and outstanding staff recognition programs, all of which give pool staff a chance to get a bonus, Kroll said.

If you are interested in taking on a summer job at a pool, you can find details on the City of La Crosse’s website.

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