Lifeguards levelling up with a Skills Active apprenticeship

August 31, 2020

The Skills Active Senior Pool Lifeguard apprenticeship is designed not just for people in the early stages of their aquatics careers, but also poolside veterans who wish to be recognised for their skills and knowledge. Skills Active caught up with two experienced lifeguards who are completing the apprenticeship.

Michelle Teztlaff has been lifeguarding for well over 20 years. Based at the Wanaka Recreation Centre, she is also a swim teacher, and loves getting to know the community through her work.

“I love learning things about the customers that come in. I would pride myself on saying I know at least 85% of the locals who come in by name, their jobs, and so forth.

“I like seeing how happy people are when they have a good experience being here.”

Michelle was in fact named Lifeguard of the Year at the 2019 Waves Conference (she is pictured above receiving her award). That prize came with a scholarship to pursue the Skills Active Senior Pool Lifeguard Apprenticeship (Level 4).

While juggling her apprenticeship, work, family and friends, Michelle is also building a house – herself – so she has plenty to keep her busy.

“It is hard, to be honest, to find the time for everything. But I am lucky at the pool; they have allocated me time on one of my night shifts to come off poolside and work on my apprenticeship.”

She adds that she has great support from her supervisors, and she is also in regular contact with her Skills Active assessor, Yvonne Hughey, who’s based at Hanmer Springs.

“She just keeps me on the right path, so that I know that I am getting there and doing the right thing.”

Michelle says that because she had already completed all of her Level 3 aquatics qualifications in lifeguarding and swim education, the apprenticeship was a natural next step.

“I think this qualification is a great for stepping up in your role. It can be quite hard sometimes to become supervisor, and this allows you to upskill, to help get you where you want to go.”

Meanwhile, further north, another lifeguard who knows his stuff is working away on his Skills Active apprenticeship.

2008 Ryan Stark

Ryan Stark, pictured above is based at the Napier Aquatic Centre, where he is on the lifeguard team, monitors the water quality, and trains new lifeguards. Ryan is also a registered Skills Active assessor, meaning he determines the competence of others in the team who are on their way to becoming qualified lifeguards.

Ryan says lifeguarding is a flexible career, which allows him to work around his time with his young son. He also enjoys the responsibility that comes with looking after swimmers and keeping them safe.

He says one of the tricky parts of the job at present is that, under Alert Level 2, the Aquatic Centre can’t offer people the use of the changing rooms. Instead they recommend that everyone arrives with their togs on, and leaves with their togs on. But people can get confused or frustrated at times.

Managing the public and smoothing over the issues that crop up is all part of a lifeguard’s job, says Ryan. He adds that having a great team helps, and makes the pool a good place to be.

Ryan says he is keen on furthering his education as an adult, and has his sights set on a management certificate to complement his lifeguard qualification.

He found it a little bit daunting when he first got started on his apprenticeship, but after handing in his first assignment, things started to flow.

“I thought, ‘Uh-oh. I don’t know if this is going to work out.’ But I submitted the work and surprisingly enough I passed - and that motivated me to carry on.”