The City of Dubuque is continuing efforts to recruit and hire additional seasonal staff for its recreation division and is raising wages for lifeguards, pool managers, and playground/after-school staff this season. In addition to attracting more applicants for current job openings, a significant goal of these changes is to attract and retain staff from year to year.
Recruitment and hiring was a major challenge for the City’s recreation division last year, and for the entire industry nationally. This shortage in staff last year resulted in the altered operations of pools, the marina, and several programs. It also resulted in the division’s supervisory staff doing everything they could to fill gaps so that the community would not see an even greater reduction in services. For several full-time staff, this meant consistent coverage on nights and weekends managing facilities and programs, lifeguarding, officiating, and more.
In preparation for the 2022 summer season, the recreation staff began working with the human resources department starting in October of 2021 to review processes that would improve this year's recruitment season. Staff began finding ways and planning for how to remove any barriers that might prevent people from applying. This included, but was not limited to, offering free lifeguard certification programs over the winter months, starting the recruitment process as early as December, offering the increased wages approved for the year prior, and lowering the minimum hiring age to 15 years old.
Additionally, the City’s advertising and recruitment efforts to fill the recreation division staff position were significantly enhanced this year. In addition to standard recruitment practices, special efforts were made to reach out to partner organizations, neighborhood groups, coaches, school administrators, local universities, etc., and conducted a social media campaign.
Despite these efforts, the recreation division has only been able to hire approximately 55% of the staff needed for summer operations and programming. The City’s greatest immediate need for recreation division staffing is in pool lifeguards and playgrounds/after school program staff. The need is not only for this season, but to also attract staff for future seasons.
In an additional effort to attract more applicants and fill as many positions as possible, City Manager Mike Van Milligen has approved a staff recommendation to increase wages for some of the City’s recreation division positions this season.
The highest average wage for a lifeguard in Iowa (based on 38 reporting cities) is $11.15 per hour. Iowa City currently pays the highest wage in the state at $15.50 per hour. In Dubuque, the lifeguard wage was increased last season to $12.50. This season, new lifeguards will be paid $15 per hour and returning lifeguards will be paid $17 per hour as a “retaining wage” to increase the numbers of returning staff.
The City currently has 24 lifeguards hired and in the process of being trained and certified. A total of 30-35 lifeguards are needed to safely operate Flora Pool and an additional 25-30 lifeguards would be needed to safely operate Sutton Pool. State codes require certain staffing levels for pools to operate and staff must be certified lifeguards. If additional applications for lifeguard positions are received, the required certification programs will be scheduled.
The reason both pools cannot safely open is due to understaffing. Only opening Flora Pool allows the City to serve the greatest number of residents. It is the largest of the two pools with a 33% larger body of water and significantly larger lawn space. Due to its size, it allows greater capacity for open swim and swim lessons than Sutton. Flora is also the most centrally located pool, making it the more accessible option of the two pools for the greatest number of people. Ultimately, an alternating schedule with time periods where only Sutton Pool is open would reduce the number of residents the City can serve and is a less accessible option.
“All along, our goal has been to hire enough staff to safely open both pools and offer all our recreation programs,” said Recreation Division Manager Dan Kroger. “Being a lifeguard comes with tremendous responsibility and requires significant skills and training. If we are able to hire and train enough lifeguards to consider opening Sutton Pool at some point this summer, we will do our best to do that, but the safety of pool patrons will always be our top priority.”
The recreation division’s playground leaders and after school staff were being paid $10.72 per hour. Although their job skills and training are vastly different than that of a lifeguard, their direct impact on the youth is also extremely important. To attract more applicants and retain staff, their wage is being increased from $10.72 to $14 per hour with a retention wage of $16 per hour.
Individuals interested in applying for employment with the City of Dubuque should visit www.cityofdubuque.org/jobs
. Additional information on lifeguard positions is available at www.cityofdubuque.org/pooljobs
. For more information on why Flora Pool is the only pool scheduled to open this year, visit www.cityofdubuque.org/2022poolFAQs