Career pathways key to swim school’s growth

Published 27 June 2023
Working in the aquatics industry can be so much more than just a summer job, with opportunities to earn qualifications and build a career, says Easyswim swim school owner Todd Morton, who has just had five new apprentices join his growing ranks.

From humble beginnings in 2006, Easyswim started off as a one-man-band based in Khandallah, but today the swim school has more than 60 staff and holds lessons for all different age groups across Wellington.

Todd says a key part of growing his business has been by upskilling his staff through on-the-job qualifications offered by tertiary education provider, Te Mahi Ako.

“They can learn something, master it and then move on at their own pace. It’s good development for the staff, and if you want them to stay and do well, you’ve got to keep them learning.”

Easyswim’s five new apprentices are currently working towards earning their New Zealand Certificate in Aquatics: Swim and Water Safety Teacher (Level 3).

“For someone who's new to the industry, it covers off all the things that are second nature to someone who’s been teaching for years,” Todd says.

“What we like about it is that you don't pass unless you can demonstrate you can actually do a decent job. There’s some teeth behind it. People do fail, but then they get a chance to up their game. We like that because it lends itself to having high standards. We're not putting anyone in the pool that hasn't had a decent amount of training and can't teach to the high standard that we want.”

The next phase of the apprentices’ learning pathway is Te Mahi Ako’s New Zealand Apprenticeship: Specialised Swim and Water Safety Teacher (Level 4), a programme Todd says has already equipped a number of his staff with the skills to lead specialised classes.

“Those key staff that are committed, we want them involved and to really become leaders within the organisation and have the right skills to be able to do that.”

He says this has enabled Easyswim to expand its client base by better serving early childhood swimmers, adults, competitive swimmers and those with learning difficulties.

They could not have done it alone however, with the government’s apprenticeship boost scheme playing a big role in helping Easyswim support the development of its staff, Todd says.

“We’re wanting people to understand that aquatics is a career path – not just a job for college or university students. So to do that, we need those courses and those development packages that give qualifications. Then you get more long-term people staying in the industry which leads to more skills, more leaders, better teachers, and ultimately better swimming lessons.”

Todd says a strong aquatics industry is important not just from a safety perspective, but also a health perspective.

“If you learn to swim, you can swim for the rest of your life. It's a great way to exercise and great for mental health.”

However, with an increasing number of school pools closing, he is concerned children are missing out on this opportunity.

“Schools don't get enough funding to cover operating their pools. I've seen a number of them doing the best with little to no resources,” Todd says.

“Swimming is often put in the too hard basket, so perhaps we need to ring-fence some funding and set some clear objectives, so that every kid in New Zealand can learn to swim.”