For Immediate Release
May 23, 2019
Director, Marketing & Communications
LIFEGUARD SHORTAGE EXPECTED TO AFFECT MEMORIAL DAY POOL OPENINGS
Mid-Atlantic Area to Feel Significant Impact
(ALEXANDRIA, VA)— The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), through its J-1 Coalition, has been working aggressively to combat the impact of seasonal workforce shortages on the pool and hot tub industry. Due to the complexity of the visa process, delayed pool openings are expected in the East Coast, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region. Pools that are expected to be impacted include those that are run by pool management companies that recruit lifeguards from countries through the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program.
“The J-1 program has become a critical piece in filling the gap in the seasonal pool and hot tub industry workforce at a time when U.S. summer employment rates for youth are falling. More U.S. teen and college students are opting for summer education or the opportunity to gain professional experience through internships,” said PHTA’s Director of Government Affairs, Jennifer Hatfield.” “The roadblocks that are limiting the number of J-1 visas being issued are placing unprecedented burdens on pool and spa industry companies and limiting their ability to service their customers.”
Since its introduction in 1961 under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, the J-1 Visa Program has been the visa used for foreign students and scholars. The visa, which allows students to train and/or work in the United States, has seen countless students—particularly students from Europe—cross the Atlantic for a few months of cultural exchange and valuable life experience.
“For decades, thousands of college students from around the world have traveled to the U.S. each summer to work and experience American culture before returning in September for the new academic year, said Hatfield.” “Their period of availability makes it ideal for students to participate in this program. However, the extreme vetting that has occurred over the last few years makes it harder for employers to coordinate travel and fill essential seasonal positions. As we approach the Memorial Day Holiday many pool companies that rely on J-1 visa recruits will have delayed openings, especially in the Mid-Atlantic areas, as they continue to wait for more recruits to be cleared for travel.”
Since 2013, PHTA’s J-1 Coalition, consisting of member companies whose livelihood are dependent on staffing community and public pools with reliable and competent workers throughout the season, have been working with members of the U.S. House and Senate to discuss the potential unintended consequences of regulator changes to the J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel Program. As the coalition continues that work, they will also be looking into the complexity of the visa process and possible ways to prevent these delays from happening.
For more information, contact PHTA Director of Government Relations, Jennifer Hatfield.
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) was formed in 2019, combining the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). With the mission to “Celebrate the Water,” PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit APSP.org or NSPF.org.