ST. LOUIS – There’s just over a week left until Memorial Day weekend, and pools are ramping up their search for lifeguards. This comes as they face the challenge of a nationwide shortage.

Employees who work at public pools said they’re planning to open on or before Memorial Day weekend, and although they have some lifeguards on staff, they say they need more.

“It is such an important job for everybody to have, and the training is pretty intense,” said Kassi Baker, district aquatic director.

Baker works with the YMCA at Carondelet Park in south St. Louis and said they have 30 to 40 positions open for the summer. She said it’s critical to have a lifeguard on deck.

“You never know when somebody’s going to get into distress with not being able to swim,” Baker said. “Or if they would have like a heart attack or a stroke. So having somebody trained to take over that situation is very important.”

The YMCA is offering a $200 sign-on bonus to become a lifeguard. Once hired, employees are eligible for a $300 employee referral bonus. This is all until May 31.

Over at the Wohl Recreation Center, city Commissioner of Recreation Evelyn Rice said they offer free training to help applicants become certified.

“Right now, we have 21 in process, and we’d like to have 10 or 15 more. And that would allow us to offer more hours for swimming,” she said.

The pay is $15.46 an hour. You have to be 16 or older and, of course, be able to swim.

“We can teach the finer points of lifeguarding. You don’t have to be a lifeguard to apply, although if you are, that’s even better,” Rice said. “But we can teach a basically good swimmer how to become a lifeguard.”

The YMCA opens on May 27, and the pool at Wohl Recreation Center opens on Memorial Day.