Globally-recognized and highly respected commercial diver and ROV training facility, The Underwater Center, has made a senior appointment to further strengthen links between the Center and the offshore industry.
James Ridgeway – formerly Subsea Training Manager at the National Hyperbaric Centre in Aberdeen – has been appointed Training Operations Manager at the Fort William facility. He will be responsible for all aspects of training at the Center, including ROV pilot technician training, as well as commercial air and saturation diver training.
James’ appointment comes at an important time for The Underwater Center, which is developing new initiatives to respond to the needs and demands of industry for skilled personnel.
A former soldier, James (39), has had an international air diving career spanning more than 18 years. Born in Leeds, he spent a number of years growing up in Durban, South Africa, before moving back to the UK. On leaving school he joined the British army as an infantryman at the age of 17, during which time he took his first diving qualifications.
He left the army after three years and - after working as a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer and as a mixed gas technical diving instructor - he went on to complete his inshore and offshore commercial diving qualifications. He spent a number of years in the UK working as an inshore civil diver, before he progressed into offshore diving, becoming a DOL South African diving supervisor and ADC diving supervisor.
James has also owned and operated his own commercial diving company and worked as diving safety officer for regions within the Caribbean.
During his time in the UK, James, who comes from a family of doctors, obtained an Honours degree in Human Biology from Leeds University: “I had always had an interest in hyperbaric medicine, so by doing this degree it gave me a lot of the information I needed to break into this area,” he said.
“Diving is not like a normal career as you can be away for months at a time and then have extended periods at home. I decided to train to become a qualified emergency medical technician, working on the road responding to 999 calls during my shore time so I have a working knowledge of dealing with real life medical emergencies. I am also an approved teacher on the HSE Hyperbaric Medic course and I am part of the team which qualifies GPs to become diver medics.”
It was the connection between diving medicine and training that led James to leave South Africa, where he was working as a commercial diving instructor and IMCA diver medic trainer, and move to The National Hyperbaric Center in Aberdeen. After a year there, he accepted the job at The Underwater Centre in Fort William.
“The Underwater Center is a long established training school and working here gives me the opportunity to bring together all the experience I have acquired over the years,” he said.
“The Center is in a very good place at the moment – it is very much going through a period of change and is looking at global opportunities. The world diving market has changed so much over the past 10 years – projects are expanding into new global locations and with this the demand in industry for highly skilled and well trained individuals is increasing. Clients are demanding more technical knowledge from their staff and it is my intention to ensure that The Underwater Center continues to be at the forefront of developing courses and programmes to meet this demand.
“After years of working and teaching all over the world in Africa, Spain, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, as well as the west coast of Scotland, I have an understanding of these new global trends and training needs, which will help the Center as it continues to compete, grow and develop in the current environment.
“I am also looking forward to being able to help and advise students on their chosen career path – after more than 18 years in the industry, I have a good all-round understanding of what is out there and I hope that I can pass this on to new divers.”
General Manager Steve Ham described James’ appointment as ‘very significant’ for the Center. “James is very experienced in air diving and training, and he also has a strong medical background,” he said. “He will be responsible for managing the training operations at the Center and we anticipate that his experience will strengthen our delivery to both individual and corporate customers, especially when we come to develop new courses specifically for corporate training. “We are very much looking forward to the many new opportunities that 2013 will bring, as we continue to build relations with industry. James will be central to helping us increase our ability to respond to the needs of the industry.”