Saanich Pools Cut Hours and Services Due to Labor Shortage
A shortage of qualified swimming instructors has forced the district of Saanich to reduce the number of swimming lessons available at its two aquatic centers.
âA staff shortage has impacted our ability to deliver the number of swimming lessons our community has requested,â said Jennifer Jakobsen, Director of Saanich Commonwealth Place.
âSwimming lessons are one of our most popular programs and we just don’t have enough aquatics staff right now to keep up with demand,â she said.
Jakobsen says SCP’s staff shortage is the result of an insufficient number of qualified water safety workers. She says a significant number of employees are university students who were unsure of a return to class due to the pandemic.
âSome of them have had other opportunities at university that they didn’t think were available and we understand that,â Jakobsen said.
âThe challenge is also because so many aquatic centers have been closed for a long time during COVID,â she said. âThis eliminated the possibility for young people to take training to become lifeguards and water safety instructors.
Training difficulties during the pandemic
Jakobsen says that although the SCP pool remained open for most of the pandemic, physical distancing protocols prevented the training of new aquatic personnel.
âWhen we were open (during the pandemic) there were restrictions on how we could deliver these programs to train these people,â she said.
“They couldn’t actually have physical contact with each other, so we’re now at the point where we can train these people, but it takes time.”
Jakobsen says canceling swimming programs at SCP was a last resort. She says staff have looked at a number of options to keep as many spaces open as possible for swimming lessons.
“In some cases what they did was they took classes for one family and invited them to come to a setting where we have stations in the pool so that an instructor helps several families. “said Jakobsen.
“That way we can still offer them some form of swimming lesson without having to cancel them altogether.”
She says that due to the shortage of swim instructors, staff had no choice but to cancel 30 percent of the 333 one-to-one swimming lessons booked during the fall schedule.
A shortage of trained lifeguards has also meant staff have reduced pool hours most evenings.
Staff say that by reducing the hours, the pool will be open for adequate coverage by lifeguards during the busiest hours of the day.
The opening hours of the swimming pool have been reduced in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
âWe had to cut back (hours) to make sure we had adequate protective cover on the pool deck during the busiest hours of the day,â said Jakobsen.
“I think the pool schedule for people who want to come in for laps – the impact is minimal. But swimming lessons certainly have the biggest impact.”
Jacobsen says they are awaiting guidance from the provincial health office regarding relaxing protocols in the event of a pandemic. She says no longer being forced to teach swimming with a restriction of physical distancing would open up more spaces.
âA return to traditional group lessons will allow us to accommodate more people in one session,â said Jakobsen.
âFrom our point of view, it is better to go back to group lessons because we can have several children with a single instructor. “
Jakobsen says Saanich is currently taking applications for qualified personnel to fill vacant lifeguard and instructor positions. She says that with the training also underway, the Saanich Commonwealth Place Aquatic Center is expected to resume full service in January 2022.
For more information on the aquatic centers, visit the Saanich website.