Toronto cancelling over 150 swim courses over lifeguard, instructor shortages

Lifeguard shortages have forced the cancellation of over 150 Toronto swim courses, with the city blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for certification delays across North America.

Starting Wednesday, the city says it will begin cancelling 169 courses, affecting 1,140 participants, because of ongoing staffing shortages.

“Every effort was made to minimize cancellations and, where possible, staff are combining programs with low registration numbers and allocating staff to higher-demand programs,” it said in a news release.

Those affected will be contacted individually and offered either a full refund or a program credit if there is no suitable replacement for their chosen course, the city says.

Toronto is currently short about 400 lifeguards. The city says it needs roughly 1,100 to supervise beaches as well as outdoor and indoor pools — not to mention staff to supervise wading pools.

As of now, it has only about 700 lifeguards despite working ahead of time to hire qualified staff in a bid to make sure all facilities would be appropriately staffed.

Becoming a lifeguard takes over 100 hours of training, while becoming a swim instructor takes another 40 hours. But because of the pandemic, many certification programs were paused as facilities closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Because of the shortages, the city says its priority is to first staff its 55 outdoor pools and 10 beaches — but the news release says it is hoping to bring on more aquatic staff.

If you’re a lifeguard or swim instructor looking for work, the city says it is recruiting qualified staff at “an enhanced rate” to help deal with the shortage. 

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