Colin Tucci was looking for a summer job where he could make a difference. When he heard about how much jobs as a lifeguard were paying, it was a no-brainer.
Looking to hire lifeguards after years of issues, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation this year decided to offer wages starting at $21 per hour, as well as bonuses for signing on and for staying on.
"It feels very important, it feels like what you are doing has an importance," Tucci said. "Of course, I was drawn in by the higher wages and the sign-on bonus."
Since launching its new hiring initiative a few weeks ago, DCR officials say the program is working and it should have no issues hiring the 600 or so lifeguards needed for state-run beaches and pools.
"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," said Secretary Kathleen A. Theoharides of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. "We are in a much better place this year."
Things are not going as swimmingly for pools run by the City of Boston. Earlier this month, officials with the Boston Centers for Youth and Families announced the Mildred Avenue Community Center pool in Mattapan was closing temporarily due to staffing issues.
"I was actually going to sign my daughter up for the swimming lessons over there," JaJa Carter said. "It is really bad because there is not a lot of things the kids can do in the community as it is, so why would they close this down?"
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City officials say Boston is struggling with the labor market and hopes a community outreach program will lead to new lifeguard hires. According to a posting on the city's website, temporary summer lifeguard positions pay between $16 and $21 an hour.
On Tuesday, DCR lifeguard candidates met at a pool at the YMCA in Somerville to start training.
"I never thought I would be swimming or try to be a lifeguard," Ajeya Ruffin siad. "I wanted to be a nurse at first, but when I found out I could have fun and save lives at the same time, why not?"