Training tomorrow's aquatic leaders: A collaborative model in the Regional District of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island

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Porteous, Anne M.
The recruitment, training and retention of Lifeguard/Swimming Instructors is essential for the provision of safe and high quality aquatic programs. For years, recruitment, training and retention has become increasingly challenging. The issue was identified in Ontario, Canada, in 2005, and over the past ten years the issue has continued right across the country. The author, who works as an Aquatic Recreation Programmer for the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) on Vancouver Island, BC, has recently been dealing with this mounting problem. As a solution, the author, in collaboration with the local School District, developed an Aquatic Leadership Program (ALP). A school based curriculum was designed, allowing students to gain credits for aquatic leadership courses offered by the RDN. The ALP was a comprehensive concept approved by the School District and included Ministry of Education funding. A Pilot Project was initiated from February 2015 to June 2015. Eight students were accepted and of the eight students enrolled, six successfully completed the program, and three were hired by the RDN. Upon evaluating the program with the SD69 teachers involved, the ALP was deemed a success. The goals and objectives of both parties were met, and the outcomes established for the students were also met. However, there were some challenges identified throughout the program and these were addressed during the evaluation process. Solutions to the challenges were explored that will be integrated into the next ALP implementation. The ALP was beneficial to the RDN because it provided a group of trained and certified students able to apply for employment after completing the program. It was favourable to SD69 as it fit well with its mandate to provide students with alternative educational experiences to enhance their knowledge, skills and experience for future career choices. Most importantly, it was of significant advantage to the students who gained invaluable leadership skills and were well trained to obtain employment while attending school or upon graduation. Another important benefit of the ALP is its value to other communities facing similar staffing challenges. The author recently completed a Power Point presentation to the Canadian Red Cross. It was well received and there may be other stakeholders interested in hearing about the program including Parks and Recreation Associations and School Districts across Canada or internationally. The ALP can be an excellent solution to recruiting and retaining certified and qualified aquatic staff.
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