GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has found a way to fill all of its lifeguard positions this summer amid a nationwide shortage.

The parks department increased starting wages and covered training costs in 2022 after a lot of openings were not filled for the 2021 season.

David Marquardt, the director of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation, said the city had enough to keep pools open last year but having fewer positions posed scheduling challenges.

“We had projected that we needed about 80 lifeguards on staff. I think we were about 60, 65 employees that we hired,” Marquardt said.  

The city has made changes to attract new guards by raising starting pay to $14 an hour and covering the cost of training, which runs about $200 per employee.

“I think the combination together made these jobs … that are otherwise rather enticing even more so now just because we’re a little bit more competitive with the market and what people are paying in different sectors,” Marquardt said.    

While positions are full this year, if you are interested in joining the team next year it is recommended you apply at the beginning of the year.

“The city of Grand Rapids started the training operations back in late March early April, the training itself takes about a week’s time for everything that’s required and we’ve been cycling employees through that,” Marquardt said.    

As many pools across the country search for lifeguards, some have reached out to Grand Rapids to see how its new program made an impact.

“I feel fortunate that we’re in a position this year where … we’re at those lifeguard numbers that we set out and projected within our budget and we’ll be able to keep our pools fully operational and fully staffed,” Marquardt said.    

Grand Rapids city pools are scheduled to open on June 10.