Places Leisure is giving young people the chance to get a foothold in the sports and physical activity sector with free lifeguard training from the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK).

The social enterprise, which operates ninety-nine leisure centres on behalf of local authority partners, has secured two separate rounds of funding to deliver the RLSS UK’s National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) to sixty young people to help tackle youth unemployment in the area.

The first training course, funded by Wolverhampton Council’s City Ideas Fund, targets 18 to 24-year-olds not, in employment, education or training - and takes place at Wolverhampton Swimming and Fitness Centre. As the UK’s most awarded lifeguarding qualification, the NPLQ is a popular starting point for a career in the sports and physical activity sector. Internationally recognised, the NPLQ also offers travel opportunities for qualified lifeguards.

Places Leisure has secured funding for thirty places over five courses this year. The five-and-a-half-day lifeguarding course will be followed by a job interview with Places Leisure.

“Lifeguarding is a stable job, particularly given the local and national shortage, but for many young people in Wolverhampton, the cost of the training is prohibitive. We have a clear career pathway for lifeguards at Places Leisure, and, in addition to our own vacancies, we will work with other providers to signpost successful candidates to relevant vacancies,” says Chris Shipway, Area Healthy Communities Manager at Places Leisure (covering Amber Valley, Birmingham, Hinckley, Rotherham, Sandwell, Sheffield, and Wolverhampton).

The scheme follows the success of a pilot programme at West Bromwich Leisure Centre in the summer of 2021, which saw Places Leisure deliver NPLQ training to 16-year-olds in Sandwell. Funded by the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, all ten participants completed the course, and seven passed. Of these, three took up casual lifeguarding positions at West Bromwich Leisure Centre where they continue to work today. Another two went on to find employment as lifeguards elsewhere.

Places Leisure has secured further funding from the HAF programme and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council to offer NPLQ training to thirty more 16–18-year-olds during the summer and half-term holidays. The organisation will follow up with participants after three and six months to assess the impact of the scheme.

“These initiatives from Places Leisure are both inspiring and potentially life-changing. As one of the most respected and recognised lifeguarding qualifications in the world, the NPLQ will help local youngsters gain employment, giving skills they will benefit from for the rest of their lives while helping to alleviate local and national lifeguard shortages,” says Robert Gofton, CEO, from the RLSS UK.

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