MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee officials say the pandemic is to blame for the lifeguard shortage this summer, but training is still underway for the next crop of lifeguards.
While today's training is a step in the right direction -- it might not be enough.
These future lifeguards are dipping their toes into safety training ahead of the summer.
"Last year, we saw a lot of drowning-related incidents and even deaths related to those so I think a lot of people are more weary of the water this year," Luke Chojnacki said.
While these trainees dive headfirst into water safety, others have cold feet -- creating a staffing shortage across southeastern Wisconsin.
"There’s been an entire year where staff hasn’t been able to work for a large portion so they’re going off and getting new jobs or they haven’t even been able to keep their swimming skills up over the year because the pools have been closed," Chojnacki said.
Before the pandemic, Chojnacki, the Milwaukee Recreation aquatics supervisor, says they employed roughly 130 people. Now, they're at about 60. A number that's cause for concern if and when City of Milwaukee pools open to full capacity.
"Once things do open back up and we’re able to see that full attendance we will be short-staffed," he said.
This training is a good sign for the city to help boost the staff numbers. And they're encouraging anyone interested in lifeguarding to do so as a step towards a normal summer.
"We're really looking for individuals who are interested in becoming lifeguards who have those swimming skills and or are interested in becoming swimming instructors who want to share their skills and passion with the community," Chojnacki said.