AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every Summer the City of Austin relies on hundreds of lifeguards to watch over city pools.
The hiring process begins in November and to successfully run all 34 pools the city needs about 860 lifeguards.
In 2022, over 1,000 people applied to be lifeguards, PARD hired about 422, and over 200 lifeguards returned from earlier seasons, but some qualified candidates received an inaccurate notice of non-selection according to a recent report.
The report states: “We found that 95% of lifeguard applicants received notices that they were not selected for the position. These notices were not usually an accurate reflection of the applicant’s status. For example, 93% of the 422 lifeguards eventually hired by PARD received an inaccurate notice of non-selection.”
“The city of Austin has a citywide human resources information system that we utilize and that system sent out erroneous messages,” said Sam Williams, human resources supervisor for employment & compensation, with PARD. “There were lots of erroneous messages that went out, but in turn we contacted those applicants and candidates to let them know they were still being considered for the applicant and hiring process.”
Over the past few years data for applicants was put in manually, but in 2022 the parks and recreation department started using a new system called TOPS.
“With the new TOPS system we now have the ability to leverage technology to help us boost the number of applicants that we can get through the system, reviewed and then hired on as lifeguards.”
Williams says PARD’s goal remains hiring staff as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure facilities are well staffed and available for City of Austin residents to enjoy.
There is a process that potential candidates must go through which includes a background check, a lifeguard certification course and additional paperwork for employment.
Candidates apply on the city job portal, eCareer, and once their application is received, they automatically receive a conditional offer and instructions for the next steps.
When someone applies through the City job portal, PARD employees download the application and manually enter the applicant’s information into PARD’s internal system for tracking temporary employees, called TOPS.
The report states: “Three different systems are used to collect applicant and employee data: the City job portal (eCareer), PARD’s internal system to manage temporary employees (TOPS), and the City’s payroll system (Banner). Each system collects different data at different points in the hiring and onboarding process and do not interact with each other automatically.”
The report found that some applicants’ data was missing in some of these portals. There were 52 applicants who submitted an application to eCareers but it was never entered into the TOPS system and they never received the conditional offer of employment or next-step instructions. These 52 candidates were never hired.
The report stated the department could not be certain why these candidates were not hired, but they may not have received follow-up communication, they could have been disqualified by a PARD employee before entering them into TOPS, or they were not entered due to manual data entry errors.
“I’m pleased to have this Special Report out that I requested with my former colleague, Kathie Tovo,” Austin Councilmember Leslie Pool said. “Neighborhoods are eager for the community pools to open this summer, and part of making that happen is having enough lifeguards. The first step to fixing something is understanding the problem. We now have a blueprint to get lifeguards quickly hired and out to the pools.”