Mum of Olympian Emma McKeon, Susie McKeon, hopes all kids learn to swim - but the region needs more instructors to make that happen.
Ms McKeon, who is also director of McKeon Swim Centre, says the industry is suffering a worsening skills shortage, and has welcomed news of a new course on offer at TAFE Shellharbour.
A Certificate III in Aquatics and Community Recreation will be on offer in 2022, to help stem the rising tide of drownings and the plummeting number of qualified swim instructors in the region.
Ms McKeon said it would help ensure more of the region's children were given an opportunity to learn to swim.
"It's fantastic news and we have seen a huge need for swimming instructors locally since COVID-19," Ms McKeon said.
"It's such a rewarding job and you have the opportunity to really make a difference in a child's and a family's life."
The recently released Royal Life Saving Society National Drowning Report showed an increase in drownings nationwide, while COVID-19 lockdowns saw swimming classes cancelled locally for about six months.
Almost 300 people drowned in Australian waterways last year, with 99 of those drownings occurring in NSW, according to the report.
Thirty-nine of the total drowning deaths were children aged between 0-14.
TAFE NSW Sport and Fitness Teacher Kristen Cantrill said the new course would qualify graduates as both swim instructors and aqua-aerobics instructors.
"This is about giving locals the practical skills to launch a rewarding new career, or to allow current swim instructors to expand their knowledge," Ms Cantrill said.
"The course is being offered for the first time because we've identified a huge gap in the market for swim and aqua-aerobics instructors.
"It's a broad qualification and there are so many great career opportunities in the industry.
"To work with children and their families to build a love of swimming and safety is extremely gratifying."
Among units offered in the 12-month course include instructing water-based fitness activities, instructing swimming strokes and performing basic water rescues.
The practical parts of the course will be delivered at McKeon Swim Centre.
The Illawarra Mercury newsroom is funded by our readers. You can subscribe to support our journalism here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.