A west Northumberland leisure centre is offering subsided lifeguard training and new job opportunities with the help of a four-figure grant from the region’s biggest building society as it prepares to welcome local people back into the water.

Providing the current plans for the easing of pandemic restrictions remain on track, Haltwhistle Swimming & Leisure Centre will be reopening its outdoor swimming pools on Monday 12 April.

As part of its preparations for the big day, it is looking to build up a team of at least 14 trained lifeguards who will help to keep customers safe from April through to September and is planning to hold a training course for potential new recruits.

The week-long course, which will lead to a recognised Royal Life Saving Society UK qualification, would usually cost participants around £350 to attend.

But thanks to a £2,500 grant from Newcastle Building Society, the cost will be heavily subsidised to open up the opportunity to as many local people as possible, regardless of their financial situations.

The funding is being provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

In the first part of 2021, the Society is directing its support to a range of employability and food poverty projects, helping communities manage and recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Training will cover a wide range of different areas, including water rescue, first aid skills and delivering CPR, as well as health & safety regulations and site-specific information about the Haltwhistle pool.

The week will finish with a formal assessment of the skills and knowledge shared during the week, with jobs at the pool being guaranteed for all those who successfully complete it.

Applicants need to be at least 16 years old and will have to undertake a swimming competency test before beginning the course.

Maxine Wilson, manager at Haltwhistle Swimming & Leisure Centre, says:

“Many of our former lifeguards have either had to find alternative work over the last year or are students who are either elsewhere or unavailable, so we’re looking to put a new team in place as quickly as we can.

“We need up to five lifeguards on duty at our busiest times of the year and having a fully qualified team of at least 14 people means we’ll always have enough lifeguards available to fulfil our responsibilities.

“We’ll be able to guarantee regular work through to September for anyone that successfully completes the training course, and as well as giving them the accreditation they need right now, it will also equip them with transferable skills that they can use in both future roles and everyday life.

“This sort of detailed, intensive training naturally comes at a cost, but the generous support we’ve had from Newcastle Building Society will make it much more widely accessible across our community and will open up new local employment opportunities that might otherwise have been out of reach for many.”

Hannah Samuel, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Hexham branch,

adds: “Haltwhistle Swimming & Leisure Centre is a real community asset and will have been greatly missed by the many hundreds of local people who usually use it every week.

“We’re proud to be playing a part in helping the region recover from the impact of the pandemic and especially pleased that this grant will support people in our communities into rewarding new jobs.

“We’re looking forward to the grand reopening and hope the sun shines to welcome everyone back into the water.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a

£100,000 contribution to the Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund set up by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

To enquire about the lifeguard training at Haltwhistle Swimming & Leisure Centre, please email reception@haltwhistleleisure.co.uk