For those that provide it, the training of new science divers is arguably one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of a Diving Safety Program. It’s the best opportunity we have to teach and verify skills, demonstrate best practices, and instill the safety culture mentality that is so critical to our ongoing success. AAUS provides the minimum required content and practical skills, but the Diving Safety Officer and the Diving Control Board (DCB) get to determine who conducts the training, how the skills are taught, what the minimum performance criteria are, and which additional skills beyond the minimum they want to include.
Each Science Diver Course is different. Some programs start from scratch, conducting the initial SCUBA certification (Open Water) as a precursor to science diver training. Some programs require additional certifications such as Advanced or Rescue Diver prior to enrollment. Some programs have a required equipment list, down to the make and model of some pieces, while others provide gear from an in-house dive locker or allow whatever the student provides, so long as it has been inspected.
Course schedules also vary. Courses that run on an academic schedule may stretch for 10 to 14 weeks, while others are offered on an “intensive” schedule, meeting all day / every day for up to two weeks. Some programs work the training in when they can, looking for days when the Diver-In-Training (DIT) and the DSO or their designee can sync their schedules and conduct training as part of a project dive. I’m a big fan of on-the-job training, as it can be the most effective way to familiarize and train the diver for a specific project, but it may not provide the broader scope of experiences that some DSOs prefer.
No matter what the structure of the course is, there is always that first day of SCUBA training, the day when you get them into their dive gear and see what they’re capable of. It’s a day of mixed emotions, for the students and the staff. Students are sometimes nervous or excited and the staff are, to quote a friend, “cautiously optimistic”. It’s the time when we get to find out where the common ground is with regards to everything from equipment selection to hand signals, to particular skill techniques. There are many benchmarks for acceptable performance; “Safe and effective”, “skill mastery”, and “got the job done” to name just a few. Does your OM require you to perform a skill in a particular way? When I encounter a diver who performs a skill in a novel manner, I like to ask why they think that is the best way. “Because that’s the way I was taught” is a reasonable answer, but even as the words come out of their mouth, they know we’re going to discuss, and hopefully practice, alternative methods. If their arguments are valid, and after they try it my way at least once, I’m usually okay with any method that works for them.
Confined water is also a great opportunity to present alternative methods or equipment configurations. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see a diver have an “Ah hah” moment, when the lightbulb goes on and they see the advantages in the new gear or technique. Making a diver more comfortable or capable is always a highlight to my week, but when you can watch the transformation happen, it’s extra special.
AAUS is working on expanding our support of and creating new training opportunities in the next year. See this and future E-Slates for more information in the coming months.
Until then, keep training and keep learning.
University of California