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Tide turns on declining lifeguard numbers, but more are still needed this summer

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Progress is being made to train more lifeguards for the summer ahead, following several years of declining certification numbers

However, there’s still work to be done according to Grégoire Cormier, the New Brunswick Lifesaving Society’s training program manager.

“We feel the province is in a much better position now, but there are still some areas that are struggling in terms of capacity and finding all the staff, especially for seasonal facilities,” said Cormier.

In New Brunswick, a total of 617 lifeguard certifications were awarded in 2023, compared to 556 certifications in 2021.

“We’re very close to the pre-pandemic numbers across the province,” said Cormier.

In Nova Scotia, lifeguard certifications fell to a low of about 500 individuals during the height of the pandemic, according to Michael Melenchuk, the executive director of Nova Scotia’s Lifesaving Society.

“But we’ve returned,” said Melenchuk. “In 2023, we certified or recertified 900 lifeguards in Nova Scotia.”

Melenchuk said most of the new lifeguards were certified in the Halifax-area, which has left lingering challenges for rural aquatic facilities outside the Halifax Regional Municipality.

“They don’t have as many lifeguards that are sticking around in those small communities,” said Melenchuk. “They are finding new training opportunities. They’re building capacity by encouraging people and in some cases even subsidizing people to do training.”

Some high school students in Saint John were given the opportunity to earn high school credit on lifeguarding courses this past year. Melenchuk says educators and facilities have become more creative in encouraging people of all ages to think about lifeguarding as a career.

“There’s less than one per cent of drownings that happen in those (aquatic) settings when a lifeguard is present, so it’s shown to be much safer,” said Cormier

A widespread shortage of certified lifeguards across the country has been lingering for several years, with reduced numbers leading to a cut in facility hours or no staff on duty.

It takes about 100 combined hours to complete the required courses necessary for a lifeguard certification in Canada.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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