You spend so many hours at work, it helps if you like it. That’s how Rotorua Aquatic Center Facilities Manager Leah Burgess sees it, and that philosophy drives the award-winning training and mentorship its staff receive.
Leah describes how she ‘fell’ into working in the aquatics industry almost 20 years ago, when she had just moved and was looking for a job between Tauranga and Rotorua, when a lifeguard position s. ‘is presented at the Aquatic Center.
“When I started work, I was put by a swimming pool, I was told, ‘You look at people,’ and I received limited training. I thought, ‘Oh my God, how boring! I’m not even going to last two months in this job.
But soon after, Leah had more training opportunities, and she began to see that the lifeguard role was much bigger and more interesting than she first realized. Within three years, she moved into a supervisory position and she also began adding responsibilities for health and safety, as well as training and evaluating new lifeguards.
These days, Leah is the Facilities Manager, having taken on this role a few years ago. And in 2019, she and her team have been recognized to the national CLM awards for the fantastic culture of training and learning in their establishment.
Leah is more passionate than ever about what the center offers the community and staff.
“I like that we have a diverse range of people coming in. Swimming isn’t just for high income or low income people – it’s a skill everyone needs, ”says Leah.
“And people with disabilities too, or those who use the pool to rehabilitate. The freedom these people feel in water that they don’t have on earth is really cool.
“Not to mention the fun everyone gets from the water – and I understand that, because when I’m in the water it’s also my happy place, it’s my free time. It’s a place people want to be, they’re there for fun or to learn, so it’s a positive environment to work in.
The Aquatic Center uses Lifeguard and Swimming Teaching Skills Active qualifications, and all new customer service and aquatics employees are encouraged to complete the Sport, Exercise and Leisure Operations Certificate (SELO), said Lea.
This helps develop basic knowledge for their roles and gives them context and perspective around the important work they do, she adds.
“When I started I was like, ‘What am I doing here? With SELO he shows you how it all relates to a goal. For example, it invites you to ask yourself: how much do swimming pools cost to operate? Why do municipalities invest so much money in swimming pools? Learning to swim is so important, these are life skills.
“And he also brings it back to the learner, he asks him: What leisure activities do you like? Why are you doing them? What kind of installations do you need to be able to do them? Then that brings it back to our establishment – that’s what the community wants, that’s why we’re here, and this is how it relates to you. So this helps the staff to understand their purpose.
The Aquatic Center provides a supportive environment where staff get the time and support they need for formal on-the-job training, Leah says. This is a win-win solution because knowledgeable and knowledgeable staff can provide safe and fun experiences for customers.
And she loves to see her team members grow and develop as people, she adds.
“It’s very gratifying to see them grow professionally, have an understanding and become passionate about the role. Seeing them smile and love being at work – that’s definitely a positive thing for me. You spend so many hours at work that you want to enjoy it!
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