The shortage — which is being felt in cities including Columbus, Ohio; Del Rio, Texas; Tulsa; and Minneapolis — comes, in part, because many high school students spend their summers taking classes or engaging in enrichment activities to prepare for college instead of working, according to Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University.
Unemployment numbers released in May by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that one in four teenagers is actively seeking employment but is unable to get hired. Holzer said many of the kids who are looking for jobs are from low- or middle-income families and do not have the extra cash to spend for certification, so they do not apply for lifeguard positions.
While lifeguards are typically paid more than minimum wage, it costs about $350 to become certified as a lifeguard by the American Red Cross. This is a case where it takes money to make money. Perhaps scholarship benefactors willing to fund lifeguard certification courses could produce significant payoffs in the employment situation for at least a few deserving teens.
A local pool was still seeking lifeguards as recently as two weeks ago, well after the Memorial Day start of their season. From what I can tell, most other local summer recreation jobs get filled as early as March. While I know at least one teen who is still looking for a summer job, many local students spend their summers on enrichment activities along with family vacations and other entertaining pursuits. (I count hanging around the local Dunkin’ Donuts as an entertaining pursuit.)