close up of rescue tube under the arm of a pool lifeguard


The City of Melville has successfully utilised traineeships to assist in staffing their aquatic operations. We recently spoke with Alex Gamble, aquatic supervisor at the City’s swimming pool facility, Leisurefit Booragoon, about her experiences with traineeships.


Why did you try traineeships?

"A couple of reasons. Firstly, we wanted the benefits of the government incentives as well as having a trainee. We’re an operation that runs 118 hours a week with several bodies of water, so we’ve got up to 300 hours that we need lifeguards. It was trying to find the balance of what would be beneficial in terms of budget, government incentives as well as getting consistency amongst the team rather than a reliance on casuals. Casuals only need an hour’s notice and some of them are a bit flight at times depending on uni and whatever else is going on in their life."

"We wanted to find the right sort of person who’s aligned with the City of Melville’s goals and be an asset in terms of doing the traineeship and then hopefully having an interest in the industry and progress into a facility duty officer role and stay within the team. We were looking at offering a career path to people."

How has it been so far?

"It’s really worked for us."

"The biggest thing we stress about is trying to find the right applicant. We would forgo a trainee if we can’t find the right applicant because we don’t want to just bring anyone into this team. We want the right people who have the right vision and are on board with what we want to achieve.

One of our trainees wasn’t the best student at school, but she’s probably been our biggest asset through all of this. My view was the teachers put her in the too-hard basket, they weren’t prepared to spend the extra bit of time with her. Not that there were academic problems, it was more she just has a lack of an attention span. Based on that, she was sort of deciding what path she wanted to go and we were starting to look for a trainee. I was chatting to her and said a traineeship – it’s not a glamourous job or anything like that but the opportunities it gives you at 17 to 18 are amazing. Now, she’s basically in the position where she’s learning the role of our facility duty officer. 

There’s so much progression within our team and so many opportunities. The aquatic industry might not be their long-term career goal, but it’s a great opportunity for now until they’re ready for the next move. Our trainees understand the opportunities this gives them and the diversity in terms of what skills they learn as well as what sort of outreach they can get. We give them every opportunity within the City to gain and do more, so any training opportunities that are around we send them on. For example, they’ll go and do an intermediate Excel course, they’ve done Microsoft Office so that they can learn how to use their calendars and time management when they’re doing their admin work etc. 

We build them up and give them every opportunity that anyone in the City has, regardless of them being a trainee position. We want them to be as capable as anyone else. They have the same respect and roles and everything, they’re just obviously in a junior position. That doesn’t translate to they don’t get to do anything, it’s more ‘you’re full time, I’m full time, let’s go and do this course because it benefits the team’."

What are the benefits to your centre?

"From an organisational point of view, we’ve got consistency in terms of our operating structure, we’ve got consistency having a former trainee who’s stayed on with us full time and a new trainee that’s full time.

From a team aspect, and from a supervisor’s aspect, I think the benefits we’ve gained are we’ve gained young individuals who have a high maturity level and an amazing work ethic. They both want to see the team achieve and thrive. I don’t know how much of that reflects on them being given the opportunity as a trainee or them as an individual and how they’ve been raised or how they’ve been guided in a workplace environment, but regardless of what it is that’s driving that it’s doing wonders for them and us as a team."

What is your advice to other aquatic centres considering a traineeship?

"My biggest bit of advice would be about finding the right applicant. The way we structure it, they’re predominantly on pool deck lifeguarding, as well as going and doing their pool ops and we sort of bring them through that avenue. My advice would be to find the right applicant if you’re going to structure it similarly to the way we have. The reason I say that is we sat down with our trainees when we advertised the traineeship and said how it’s not a glamorous job, it’s really not. It’s not glorious. It’s tiring, it’s boring, you’re spending a lot of time on pool deck alone. Not that you’re not supported, but you’re literally alone watching a pool because that’s what the job of a lifeguard is. The turnaround side of that is explaining to them the opportunity it gives them. Not many 18-year-olds can say they’re working full time on a relatively good wage, I think it’s $45-47k as a trainee at 18."

"It’s almost $1500 a fortnight – that’s not a bad opportunity when you’re getting paid leave, you’re getting leave loading, you’re getting to have public holidays off, you’re not in the rat race with the casuals and things like that."

"One of our trainees is turning 20 in two weeks and she’s got enough money in the bank for a house deposit. She’s also travelled every year, she’s had a few big purchases (like a French bulldog puppy), she’s had the ability to buy a car and all of those things. She’s basically a grown up but she gets to live at home. I keep saying to them that it’s about the opportunity you’ve been given. It’s not glamorous and all that but the opportunities you’re given far outweigh the negative side of not being a glorious job.

Whoever the right candidate is, fully explaining and being transparent with them about what the program is and how you want to run it, and what you both want to achieve out of it is important. Whether it’s the person staying in the industry or if it’s the sole purpose of you just want someone doing the hours on pool deck and as soon as the traineeship finishes you both walk away, agree what your expectations are from either side."