New Zealand faces dire shortage of swim teachers

Learning to swim can be life-saving for children but for some parents getting them into classes is proving easier said than done.

Aotearoa is facing a dire shortage of swim teachers, with an estimated need of more than 200 across the country.

Goggles on and ready to dive into swimming lessons. While there's plenty of fun involved, these tamariki are learning life-saving skills and improving their confidence in the water, lesson by lesson.

But swim schools across the country are struggling to keep up with demand.

"There's probably around 5000 kids on waitlists at the moment trying to get into swimming lessons. And it's not because we don't want to teach the kids, it's because we haven't got the staff available," said Dan Fulton, president of Swim Coaches and Teachers New Zealand.

Fifty swim schools are looking to grow their teaching staff by as much as 50 percent, according to a new survey by the advocacy group.

"Especially after COVID it's just been harder. I manage the swim school and it's hard finding not only staff for the job but the right people for the job as well," said Fulton Swim School team leader Jack Collins.

It's an issue one whānau in Warkworth knows all too well.

"There's a couple of pools in the area that kind of do some private lessons but it's just so hard to get into with the amount of people in the area and the amount of people looking for lessons," said mother Katy Fuller.

She's tried to enrol her kids in classes a 40-minute drive away in Albany but is still stuck on the waitlist.

"We're back on waitlists now and they've cut our Sunday afternoons which were the best times for us so now we're kind of not doing any lessons and just kind of waiting," she said.

Fulton thinks a lot of the issue is down to people not realising that being a swim teacher is a fulfilling career option.

"There's qualification pathways, there's plenty of hours, you've got part-time work, you've got full-time work, you name it we've got it," he said.

"It's just so satisfying and words can't even begin to describe how I feel as a teacher," added Fulton Swim School team leader Mark Urbano.

And the best part of all, you don't have to be an Olympic swimmer to do the job.

"My first job was in a meat factory and then a friend at school said 'hey why not swim teaching' and I said 'sure I'll give it a go!'" Collins said.

But the difference you could make for tamariki could be life-changing.