A SHORTAGE of swimming teachers across the state has prompted a $3.4 million government funding boost for urgent instructor training.
Regional Victoria has been beset with pool staff shortages, not limited to swimming teachers.
A lack of lifeguards has forced local government areas such as the Loddon and Buloke shires to close their swimming pool gates for days at a time this summer.
Belgravia Leisure Loddon area manager Rod Simms said the training boost would help significantly.
"Our industry, especially in regional Victoria, is seeing a significant shortage of qualified swim teachers,'' he said. "We need more swim teachers to be able to deliver much needed lessons to our community, so this initiative is fantastic news."
The funds are expected to equip 280 people as teachers, even down to covering the cost of goggles and swimwear. The funding will be spent in a partnership between Jobs Victoria and the Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association.
Operations manager for East Bendigo's school SWIMZ Bendigo, Jodie Shelton, also welcomed the announcement. "The demand for swimming lessons has increased since COVID,'' she said.
"There are very few qualified teachers available locally, and SWIMZ Bendigo would encourage any idea that supports employers who need skilled workers, and connects them with local people looking for work."
Victorian Minister for Employment Jaala Pulford said the training would assist people who were most impacted by job losses through the pandemic. The funding is targeted at women over 45, those under 25, multicultural communities and people with a disability.
"Getting those most impacted by the pandemic into employment is critical, as is getting young children back into lessons to prepare for the summer months," she said. Ms Pulford said participants would earn money during their training period and receive nationally accredited instructor and water safety training, first-aid and CPR.
Life Saving Victoria general manager for education, sport and club development Kate Simpson said the pandemic had put pressure on the sector's ability to keep staff.
"The reality of the past 18 months is that large-scale lockdowns have been required to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Victoria, which has compounded existing difficulties to retain qualified staff in the sector. Since the start of the pandemic, 160,000 children have missed up to 5.9 million swimming lessons, which concerns us that there may be a generation of kids with reduced exposure to water safety if we don't take action now."
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