Fort William-based subsea training and trials facility, The Underwater Center, has seen a 25% increase in the number of students through its doors in 2012, with the number set to increase even further by the end of 2013.
There was also a rise in the number of international students training at the center, with graduates from countries including Angola, Australia and Iran attributing the quality of the courses, staff and the replication of real working environments as the main factors for choosing to train there.
A total of 384 students passed through the center’s doors in 2012, more than a 25% increase on the figures from 2011. The figures for 2013 look set to surpass that with 391 students having already completed or booked on to courses by the end of the year.
The number of international students also rose between 2011 and 2012, with the figures rising from 167 to 184, accounting for almost half of the total number of graduates.
Steve Ham, The Underwater Center’s General Manager, believes the rise in the number of students coming to train follows a period of growth in the oil and gas industry, which he hopes is set to continue.
“It is really important to us to be able to cater well to the large number of students that we deliver training to from across the globe," he said. "We try to be as culturally sympathetic as possible and cater for special dietary needs, specific religious observance and of course language challenges. We can deliver our courses in many languages – we’ve recently delivered courses in Russian and provided additional support to Spanish-speaking students.”
Currently undertaking the center’s 13-week Premium Industry Package are Australians Mitch Gale and Tristan Dumesny. This course gives the student the HSE commercial diver qualifications, which include subsea tools training throughout and vital additional skills training such as welding and burning, rigging and slinging and underwater inspection.
Mitch, who has a background as a boilermaker, said that he decided to retrain after learning of the many career opportunities available in diving: “With a boilermaker background, I looked into underwater welding and cutting and I was pretty much sold on the idea of training as a commercial diver.”
“I decided to train at The Underwater Center because it was highly recommended - the structure of the course and the excellent facilities – by other divers in Australia," he added" Living, studying, and diving at the center has been a great experience. The staff and students are all easy to get along with and very helpful with regards to my training and diving assessments."
Tristan, who has been friends with Mitch for some time, said, “We decided to come and train here because we wanted to complete the NDT course, which is not available in Australia. The decision to train with The Underwater Centre was easy as the company is world renowned for its course structure, center and instructors.”
As well as the seawater dive site with a large range of underwater structures and facilities, The Underwater Center has a 1.5 million liter indoor dive tank complex, purpose-built welding bays, private pier and three barges with wet bell and closed bell training facilities.
The Underwater Center welcomed its first Iranian students, Alireza Sedaghatdoust and Jalal Rezazadeh Adli, both of whom completed the center’s three-week HSE Closed Bell course, which allows them to work at various depths using oxygen and helium breathing mixtures (mixed gas) and saturation techniques.
Alireza said he had thought about training as a diver since he was a child, when he first saw divers featured in films and on TV. “When I learned more about the technical and oilfield side of things, I realized they are practical in an underwater environment too and that was a big motivating factor for me,” he said. “The courses at The Underwater Center are not designed just for a ticket, but provide real training for real jobs. The training was a whole new lesson for me and gave me lots of motivation and a new view of commercial diving. Since completing my training, I have secured a job as Technical Manager and Diving Supervisor/Instructor for IRATECH Sub Systems, although I am now looking for a job internationally.”
Jalal added, “I was searching for commercial diving schools on the internet back in 2010 and I found The Underwater Center. The atmosphere was really friendly and all Instructors and staff were very knowledgeable and experienced.”
The Underwater Center also delivers a number of other subsea training courses, such as Remotely Operated Vehicle pilot technician training, as well as the internationally-recognized HSE air and mixed gas commercial diving courses, which are all designed to equip students with the skills they will need to succeed in their careers.