A recent survey from Scubanomics showed that less than 50 percent of newly certified divers feel “ready to dive with a buddy” at the end of their course. Of course, this makes you think about the quality of the training provided. I wondered what the numbers were for ‘my training agency’ (PADI) so I wrote to the Quality Management team to ask if they had any information on this. Since I never received a reply, I have to assume that they don’t have that info and that the question “how ready to dive with a buddy do you feel?” probably is not included in PADI’s customer surveys. As far as I know, any form of quality management with other agencies is largely absent, so training agencies have no clue if their entry-level certified divers feel “ready to dive”.  

Diving instructors

What about the diving instructors? Well, in the same survey from Scubanomics, 63% of dive instructors rated the quality of courses in the dive industry as low. However, when asked about their own courses 75% of dive instructors rated the quality of their own courses as high. It seems we simply blame everybody else. Another interesting fact that came out of the Scubanomics survey is that students are willing (39.4%) or very willing (13.6%) to pay more for a better course. And when asked, “What would have improved your readiness to go scuba diving?” 70.7% of the students answered: more dives. 44.3% Answered: more time for skill practice.  

Safe diving practices

In reaction to recent dive accidents and a settled lawsuit, PADI CEO Drew Richardson urged PADI members to follow course standards and safe diving practices. It seems to me that he is showing the same reaction as the dive instructors mentioned above. Although he is absolutely right about the need to follow course standards and safe diving practices, I would argue that doing so is only the bare minimum needed to provide quality training. Drew is pointing his finger at his members but he neglects to look at PADI’s own quality management process. “Do you feel ready to dive?” should be the first question to ask after any entry-level diving course. Some may argue that “meeting the performance requirements” is actually a PADI standard and that a certification should not be issued if the student does not meet the course performance requirements in a reasonably comfortable and repeatable manner. True, but the Scubanomics survey suggests that many certifications are issued to divers that don’t feel confident to dive as a buddy team.  

How can we improve?

What can dive instructors do to improve the quality of their courses? Scuba diving is a wonderful activity and everybody who is medically fit to dive should be able to enjoy it. However, it does have its risks and you need some basic skills and knowledge to dive safely. Like Drew Richardson says: “Follow all course standards and diving safe practices always, all the time, to the best of your ability.” The best way to teach safe diving practices to your students is to be a good role model and strictly follow these guidelines yourself. But following course standards and teaching diving safe practices is apparently not enough to create confident divers.  

 Training dives

I think that most diving instructors are very engaged to turn their students into confident divers. But I very rarely hear stories about students that need extra practice to pass their course. Some people need more time to learn basic diving skills than others and the Scubanomics survey showed that people are willing to pay for this. Adding a few ‘training dives’ to the course before handing your students their certification adds to the quality of the course, it creates more confident divers and generates extra revenue for the dive center. I really don’t understand why this is not a common practice in the diving industry. Just ask your students if they feel “ready to dive as a buddy team” and they will probably come up with that suggestion themselves. As mentioned above, most diving instructors rate the quality of courses provided by others as low. I’m assuming they have encountered certified divers who (in the instructors’ opinion) lack basic diving skills. So?? Why don’t you teach them? Not for free of course. You can easily charge fun-divers a little bit extra for a ‘coaching dive’ or whatever you want to call it. Divers are willing to pay for it but I have never seen any dive center offering this to their customers. What is your opinion? Do you have any suggestions to improve the quality of dive training? I would be happy to hear your ideas and experiences. I don’t react to agency bashing.