The City of Burnaby is trying to combat significant staffing shortages and outdated registration software which make it difficult for residents to sign up for city-run programs.
Earlier this month, hundreds of Burnaby residents lined up at community centres across the city, some as early as 6 a.m., just for the chance to get registered for swimming lessons and other programs.
The city’s general manager of parks and recreation, Mary Morrison-Clark, told council the city has seen about a 46 per cent decline in spaces offered for swimming lessons.
In 2018, the city offered 11,800 swimming lesson spots, she said. Now, it offers 6,380.
“That is a significant decline in available spots that are attributed to our lack of staff,” Morrison-Clark said at a council meeting on March 27.
She said the parks and recreation department currently has about 44 aquatic vacancies and 298 vacancies across the department.
“We are still struggling to fill positions post-pandemic,” Morrison-Clark told council.
According to a staff report, the COVID-19 pandemic “created a significant gap of training for lifeguards and instructors, which resulted in a Canada-wide lifeguard/ instructor shortage and pent-up demand for swim lessons and other aquatic programs.”
And more staff are needed: Burnaby’s planned swimming pools will “double the numbers of lifeguards needed by 2026, growing from the current 375 to over 750 staff,” according to the report.
One new position created
Burnaby council has approved a new staff position, manager of aquatics, and more than $144,600 for the role’s salary and benefits, to speed up the launch of a new registration software which could reduce some of the sign-up frustrations.
Morrison-Clark told council the aquatics manager position was necessary to move the software launch date from November of this year up to July.
Full use of the software by July isn’t expected, but staff are planning to launch it partially “in time for fall registration (the busiest) to ensure it is not a repeat of the recent registration experience,” staff wrote in a report to council on March 27.
“Staff had implemented a variety of measures to improve the registration experience (in March), but ultimately recognized the urgency of retiring the existing CLASS software and transitioning to the new software as soon as possible,” according to the report.
The current CLASS software is almost 30 years old.
The new aquatics manager position was originally a part of the departments 2024 budget request, but the parks head says creating the position this year will be necessary to support rolling out the new software ahead of the planned November date.
The $144,628 allotted for the position will come from the stabilization reserve and would be included in the 2024-2028 financial plan as part of the parks department’s operating budget.
The city is hiring a variety of positions on its website.