After decades of offshore commercial diving and supervisory experience, Ken Shelley and Sid Preskitt felt there was something missing in diving training programs. “The entry level people coming out of the schools didn’t have the level of working knowledge that we thought they should,” said Preskitt.
They started Commercial Diving Technologies Institute (CDT) in 2015 to provide a more thorough, in-depth diver training program. The school is located on a five-acre site in Hudson, Florida, and includes a two-acre, 250-foot depth water area. CDT accepted its first students in 2017, and the program has been growing steadily ever since.
CDT has six fulltime instructors and a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of diving, from the physics and physiology of diving to medical and safety issues to diving gear and in-water instruction.
Students at CDT can earn an Unrestricted Surface Supplied Diver Certification issued through the Canadian Diving Certification Board of Canada. (DCBC), which is valid internationally. The course requires 900 hours of instruction over 24 weeks and includes certain tool and equipment training at minimum in-water bottom times at depths up to 165 feet.
“We routinely exceed the minimum amount of bottom time required by a significant amount,” said Preskitt. “The first two weeks are spent in the classroom. After that, students are outside on the dive station and typically engaged in dive operations daily, and back in the classroom on an as-needed basis.”
CDT also offers a U.S.-based certification through ADCI. It is a 625-hour, 17-week course. Students taking only the ADCI course are overlapped with the DCBC students. “We dive the ADCI students just like we dive the DCBC students, although they don’t do the deeper dives. But they do get a substantial amount of in-water training, Preskitt added. “We’ve found that to be very beneficial because you have mentoring that goes on with the more advanced students helping the newer students.”
All of CDT’s training makes diver health and safety a priority.
The program offers a Diver Medic Technician course, which provides 60 hours of comprehensive training. The instructor is certified by the Undersea Hyperbaric Medicine Society, and the course meets or exceeds IMCA standards.
CDT also runs a standalone one-week advanced course in Underwater Oxy-Arc Cutting.
The use of this cutting tool has always been a common task for divers and is also one of the most potentially hazardous tasks a diver can do. So the entire first day of this specialty course is dedicated to diver safety in the use of this tool,” said Preskitt. Because of CDT’s commitment to safety, all of the DCBC and ADCI students who go through the school get this day of advanced safety instruction in the Broco as well.
That’s important to the diving industry, since some companies have become reluctant to use the broco due to safety concerns, even though it is a much faster and more effective way to do underwater cutting. Preskitt noted that cutting equipment manufacturers specify that “underwater cutting is only to be performed by trained commercial divers and according to industry accepted safe diving practices.” CDT is providing that training.
During the other four days of the Underwater Oxy-Arc Cutting course, divers spend their time in the water, learning how to use the tool on thicker and thicker steel. “They have to develop a higher skill level, and there are certain techniques that they need to learn,” said Preskitt.
Real-world Training Facilities
CDT’s students spend all their time either on or in the water because the school’s offices and classrooms are located on barges in the water area. That wasn’t part of the founders’original plans.
“When we began working here, we needed a 20-foot office trailer, but we ran into some permitting difficulties,” explained Preskitt. So they built a barge for the office instead, placed it in the water and built connecting ramps. That has worked so well that they now have two more barges on site and a fourth one is planned.
The school has another unique training feature. “We were able to obtain a small offshore platform jacket and had it transported from Morgan City, Louisiana, to our site and placed in the water. We are the only commercial diver training facility in the world to feature handson training on a real structure such as this,” said Preskitt. “It gives our students a decided advantage by being able to learn and train on a real offshore platform.
“We have also constructed a submarine pipeline with several real-world steel O-ring flanges, valves, spool piece and riser with real riser clamps. The assembly, pressure test and disassembly of this pipeline, spool and riser is one of our major projects,” he added.
Making sure that new divers are well prepared is central to CDT’s program. “We feel like every student here is a reflection of us, of our reputation, said Preskitt. The school has been getting good feedback; when graduates go out and get jobs, CDT get calls from their employers asking for more graduates of the program.
“Our goal is to become the top commercial diver training facility in the world,” Preskitt added. “We have come a long way in a few short years, and we believe that we are well on our way to achieving that goal. Our courses and real-world, intensive training are setting the bar for commercial diver training and that will be of benefit to the industry. Better trained divers are safer divers.”