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Government funding boost for a career in commercial diving

Commercial diving student at The Underwater CentreThe Underwater Centre awarded £360,000 to help address oil and gas skills shortage  

A major Government investment in Scotland’s leading diver training facility in Fort William could provide an exciting opportunity for up to 42 Scottish-based individuals to begin a new career in commercial diving.

The Underwater Centre has been awarded £360,000 by the Scottish Government as part of its £2million Energy Skills Challenge Fund investment package, which aims to tackle the current skills shortage in the oil and gas industry. The Centre is the only commercial diving school to have received the funding, which is only available to individuals with a Scottish postcode.

The news comes at a time when the UK is facing a dramatic skills shortage in the oil and gas sector, as well as an ageing population of commercial divers – a recent report by Oil and Gas UK shows that in 2011, more than a third of the UK’s ‘core’ diving personnel were aged between 45-54 years.

The Energy Skills Challenge Fund aims to encourage those currently working in construction and engineering-related jobs to consider retraining for a variety of jobs within the energy sector.

The funding will allow 42 prospective students the opportunity to undertake one of two courses – The Underwater Centre’s New Construction Package or its Premium Industry Package – for half the normal fee, giving them the support and training needed to get started as commercial divers.

The new 11-week Construction Package will provide training in the statutory components of the Health and Safety Executive’s commercial diving curriculum, as well as training in the use of subsea tools and practical exercises in carrying out construction and maintenance tasks underwater, such as subsea welding and cutting, and rigging and slinging operations.

The 13-week Premium Industry Package incorporates all of the components of the Construction package, but also includes training in subsea inspection techniques.  Diving provides an excellent career choice, with multiple benefits.  85% of the Centre’s students are working within three months of graduating, with some students landing a job within a week.

Training is particularly geared towards equipping and up-skilling those with transferrable skills and a hands-on attitude will help prepare the next generation of commercial divers for the wide range of career opportunities available within this sector, including Scotland’s renewable industry and the oil and gas sector.

As well as providing the mandatory HSE commercial diver training, they also include essential vocational skills, which form an excellent base for anyone seeking a career in inshore or offshore air diving.

Steve Ham, General Manager at The Underwater Centre, said that the funding could not have come at a better time.

“At present, we are not training sufficient numbers of commercial divers to meet the UK demand.  The commercial diver population is ageing and there is likely to be a dramatic skills shortage which will have to be met by commercial divers from out with the UK.

“The Underwater Centre currently trains more divers from overseas than from within the UK; for example in 2010, the Centre trained more Italian divers than British divers. The low levels of UK candidates is not based on employment prospects, but is due to there not being a mechanism to allow candidates to fund training.

“We therefore very much welcome and support the Scottish Government’s initiative to retrain Scottish people and get them into Scottish jobs, and we will continue working with diving contractors to try to help our students into great commercial diving jobs.”

Anyone interested in more information about The Underwater Centre should contact 01397 703786 or [email protected]


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