AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Parks and Recreation Department aims to hire 850 lifeguards to work at city-run pools this summer, with nearly 300 already ready for work.

PARD Director Kimberly McNeely provided the update during an Austin City Council work session Tuesday. She said this year marks the first time since 2019 the department is on track to hits its hiring goal.

It comes as the city upped its minimum wage to $20 an hour, applicable to city lifeguards. McNeely added lifeguards also have the opportunity to earn up to $750 in a bonus.

In order to attract more candidates, McNeely said Austin PARD has reduced its entry barriers and offers free training for all accepted candidates. Even if trainees don’t pass, they will be offered another job within the parks system, she said.

Alongside free training, she said the department will offer a $400 stipend to compensate candidates for their time spent training.

As of mid-April, there are 299 lifeguards ready to work, she said. At this same point in 2019, there were 302 candidates cleared for the job.

So far, the department has received 700 applications. During the month of May, McNeely said 167 people have signed up for lifeguarding classes, with 46 prior lifeguards looking to return.