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State offers signing bonuses, free training to recruit lifeguards for swim season

"We actually have had significantly more interest earlier this year because of the sign-on bonus and because of the hourly wages."

Lifeguards watched over Pleasure Bay Beach in South Boston. Christiana Botic for The Boston Globe

It’s almost that time when hundreds will flock to nearby beaches and pools to stave off the summer heat, and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation is looking for lifeguards.

This year, the department is paying $21 per hour for lifeguards and $22 per hour for head lifeguards. The state is looking to fill full-time positions up to 40 hours per week, including weekends, according to the department’s website. Individuals who are water safety instructors that teach “Learn to Swim” courses will receive an extra $2 per hour.

There’s also a signing bonus of $500 and a retention, or year-end bonus, of $500, according to the state.

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DCR faced lifeguard shortages last year, forcing the state to close some pools and beaches. Part of the problem was the closure of certification or recertification classes due to the pandemic and then the need for classes to be small to accommodate social distancing when they reopened.

Another factor was a delay in visa applications for seasonal employees being processed.

DCR said free training is available this year for interested candidates as long as lifeguards work for the summer. Individuals must be at least 16 years old, and be able to swim 500 yards in under 11 minutes, or in nine minutes and 30 seconds for the ocean.

“We actually have had significantly more interest earlier this year because of the sign-on bonus and because of the hourly wages, and we have heard those wages are the most competitive in the commonwealth,” Secretary Kathleen Theoharides of the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said, according to NECN. “We are in a much better place this year.”

Despite the gain in guards for DCR, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families temporarily closed the Mildred Avenue pool in Mattapan earlier this month due to lack of staff , according toThe Boston Globe.

“We are recruiting and training additional staff so we can reopen asap,” BCYF said in a tweet.

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Some were disappointed by the closure.

“To really remove that opportunity in a predominantly Black and brown community is again feeding into a stereotype and causing a disparity,” resident Paula Campbell said in an interview with the Globe. “We’re just constantly, constantly falling into the shadows of other neighborhoods. And no one cares.”

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