Olathe working to attract bigger pool of applicants to fill shortages of lifeguards

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OLATHE, Kan. — Lifeguard shortages, you have heard about them preventing some pools from opening in the Kansas City area. But in Olathe, they’re not throwing in the towel.

City managers say they are trying to attract a bigger pool of applicants. They said they are streamlining the application process during an event this weekend.

At the event people will take a swimming skills test and interview on the spot. If all goes well, applicants will be invited to spend the next three days in certification training that Olathe is offering for free.

Because of the response to COVID-19, last year in Olathe only two pools opened and patrons were required to pre-register for specific time slots.

But this is a new season with lifeguards like 17-year-old Brennan Frye new on the schedule at Mill Creek Pool.

“I’ve been working here about a week-and-a-half-now,” Frye said. “A lot of sunscreen. SPF 50+ every day.”

“I’ve got a lot of high school friends that are all over the place with like jobs inside where they’re just doing the same thing over-and-over. I’d get tired of that pretty quickly,” Frye said.

Some employees like Olathe Rec Program Manager Shelby Duncan, have much more lifeguard experience.

“I started in 2003 here in Mill Creek and just worked by way up to this role,” Duncan said. “I made lifelong friends. Ultimately I met my husband through this role. My kids are huge swimmers. It’s just kind of in your blood.”

Duncan said they like to recruit from swim teams of local high schools.

“Typically we go out to the high schools for their job fairs and what not,” Duncan said. “Of course, we couldn’t do that this year.”

That is why the city of Olathe is offering the hiring event at Mill Creek Pool on Sunday, June 6 at 6 p.m. People should bring their swimsuits because they will need to do a brief skills test to make sure they can handle the water.

The eventual full skills tests involves swimming 300 yards and lifting a 10 pound weight from the bottom of the pool. Teens and college-aged kids are welcome to apply.

Olathe needs about 250 seasonal employees to work at their six facilities and they have gaps they need to fill without skimping on training, Duncan said.

“So we’re going to do three full long days, hit it hard. And then of course we never let them pass if they can’t do those skills,” Duncan said.

“I’ve got everything ready in case I need to jump in there and do a save,” Frye said.

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