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Lifeguard positions are difficult to fill in Connecticut, so state is raising pay once again

A woman walks on Penfield beach Aug. 22, 2021, in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Mary Altaffer
A woman walks on Penfield beach Aug. 22, 2021, in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The increase in job options for young people is making it harder to staff Connecticut’s beaches and pools with lifeguards.

It’s been a problem nationwide for the past few years, said Sarah Battistini, the water safety coordinator for state parks.

There are several factors at play, Battistini says. But a big one is growing competition from other fields.

The typical teenager or young adult who would usually fill out lifeguarding staff are now “going into internships in what their eventual professional career would be," she said.

That’s why Emma Vlaun, 21, picked lifeguarding. She wants to eventually work in the medical field, and the job gives her a chance to serve the public, “performing first aid and getting used to emergency response, especially for those of us who may work in a traumatic division such as the ER one day.”

Another reason for the shortage is the increasing number of swimming places that require a lifeguard. State parks are competing with amusement parks, recreation groups and places like the YMCA to hire staff.

Lifeguard J.P. Anderson, 19, says the ratio of lifeguards to places to guard is a little skewed.

So, to attract more lifeguard applicants, the state originally increased starting pay from $14 to $16 an hour. But this week, it increased pay again, to $19 an hour. Anyone 16 and older who is a strong swimmer can apply. The state will pay applicants for the time they spend to be trained and certified.

Anderson says being a lifeguard is a great job because you get to spend the summer outside while serving the public. The deadline to apply is June 17.

Note: This story has been updated to indicate that the state on June 2 announced that it was once again raising lifeguard pay.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.

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