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Summer activities in Omaha metro jeopardized by shortage of workers

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Many were looking forward to a more normal summer after last year was a bummer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it seems that some summer activities may still be limited as a side effect of the pandemic.

6 News has previously reported on workers in the restaurant industry, but now it’s evidence that worker shortages are happening elsewhere.

“We have had to cancel some games especially at our select level because we haven’t had umpires show up,” says Bruce O’Neel, Director of the Elkhorn Athletics Association.

“We’re playing a lot of catch-up and trying to get guards trained and people interested again in lifeguarding,” Jenni Hubbard, the Aquatics Coordinator for the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation.

Swimming pools and youth baseball and softball, beloved summer activities, are suffering due to worker shortages.

“We’re recruiting as much as we can, lots of cold calls, reaching out to old staff,” Hubbard says.

“We’ve sent emails to our parents, coaches, and families and said, this is your chance to get involved,” O’Neel says.

The 18 Omaha public pools require 300 lifeguards and management to run them, but right now, Hubbard says they only have around 220.

That means it’s possible that some pools won’t open or they may have to limit their days.

“That could be pools that partner, they’re open one day and the other is open the next day so we’d combine staff, delayed opening or shortened hour, it just kind of all depends what that final number is that we do get,” she says.

In Council Bluffs, Aquatics Director Mike Bond who has worked for the city for more than 45 years, says it’s the biggest shortage they’ve ever had. For the two city pools, they need about 45 guards and staff. Right now they have about half that.

“Right now I only have enough guards to open one pool and only for open swim, no lessons, no pool parties. none of the extras, that how short we are right now.”

When it comes to youth sports, O’Neel says they’ve had to host training sessions to get players as young as 12 to start helping umpire T-ball games. So far, the turnout has been good he says.

“We’ve had quite a number of kids get trained and are going to be able to go out and do some of these games so that should put a dent in our deficiencies or gaps that we have for EAA.”

O’Neel, Hubbard, and Bond all agree that these summer jobs can help teens (or adults) gain valuable leadership and work experience and help Omaha and Council Bluffs have a more normal summer, all while earning a good chunk of change.

“The lowest amount you’ll make is $35 a game if you’re doing a single rec game,” O’Neel says.

“We start our guards at $10 an hour, and we definitely pay for experience so if they have experience somewhere else we pay for that,” says Bond.

Bond says the Council Bluffs pools will be hosting an open interview session at Pirate Cove on Saturday, May 8 from 9 a.m. to noon. If guards end up working for the Council Bluffs pools, Bond says their lifeguard certification process will be free.

Applications can be completed online under “Employment.”

To apply at Omaha’s public pools, you can visit their website and sign up for an in-person or virtual interview.

For more information, you can contact Jessi at Jessica.Hubbard@cityofomaha.org. If you’re interested in training to become an umpire, you can email O’Neel at bruceoneel@elkhornathletics.org.

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