By Bill Harrigan
More than 2,100 dive instructors have been trained at Pro Dive, a greater number than any other PADI Career Development Center. What makes Pro Dive the instructor training center chosen most often? Most Pro Dive graduates will say the outstanding staff had much to do with both their decision to go there and their success afterward. Many of them will also mention the Ft. Lauderdale facility as part of the reason for their choice. Nearly all of them will say that Pro Dive's extremely effective job placement program was important. But, if you want to ask them about it, you'll probably have to call the Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas, Florida Keys or some other lovely spot, where they are now working as instructors.
People Make The Difference: Of all the possible reasons for choosing Pro Dive, the people on the staff mean the most. By any definition, the staff members there are impressive. Five are PADI Course Directors and three are SSI Platinum Pro 5000 recipients. Taken as a group, they have logged more than 31,500 dives. In total they have more than 100 years of diving experience, more than one-third of that teaching at Pro Dive. More important than numbers, however, is their ability to pass knowledge on to students and this is where they excel. The Pro Dive staff members are not satisfied merely to teach; they must also inspire and the dedication they exhibit every single day does just that.
For instance, take Bill Cole, a 17 year veteran of Pro Dive and a PADI Course Director. Bill's primary responsibility is running the custom dive boat Pro Diver II and teaching boat operations to Resort Operations Specialist (ROS) students. I've seen Bill in action and can testify his enthusiasm shines brightly. His competence as a captain makes the Pro Diver II operate so smoothly you don't even notice the details. Even more important, though, is that Bill can pass this gift on to others. He is happiest when instructors leave his care ready to handle a real job, not just ready to pass a test.
Travis Gainsley is a PADI Master Instructor and Pro Dive ROS graduate with 10 years of experience in the dive retail business. His specialties are equipment maintenance, compressor operation and diving accident management. All of these areas are of particular interest to potential employers, so Travis continually updates the curriculum to ensure the information and teaching aids are state of the art.
Richard Hartley, another of Pro Dive's PADI Course Directors, brings real working experience to the staff. Richard has worked as an instructor in Antigua, St. Maarten and Mexico and managed the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) in The Islands of The Bahamas. Eighteen years of experience in the business have taught him the best instructors do more than teach; they instill confidence. Richard's students believe in themselves and it reflects in their success after they leave Pro Dive.
John Hudson, a Master Scuba Diver Trainer, owned and operated a successful dive center before he came to Pro Dive. With 28 years in dive retail, John is uniquely qualified to teach the sales and marketing portion of the ROS. John gives all those prospective instructors, who picture themselves splashing in clear, warm water with students every day, an invaluable, behind the scenes look at the dive business. John believes quality customer service is absolutely vital to business, both at Pro Dive and anywhere Pro Dive graduates work.
Alain Jan, a PADI Course Director who speaks French, German, Italian and English, opens Pro Dive's training programs to many Europeans. The aspect of Pro Dive he feels is most important to students is the teamwork of the instructors. They don't look on teamwork as merely dividing up the teaching chores but as a matter of coordinating their efforts in order to reinforce what each has taught and build progressively from one subject to the next.
Mike Maynes is an IDC Staff Instructor and ROS graduate whose responsibility at Pro Dive is teaching underwater photography and coral reef ecology. Pro Dive's feedback from resorts around the world is that these specialties are always in demand and they prefer to hire instructor who are well-versed in these subjects. Mike is not content just to make Pro Dive instructors familiar with photography, though. He tries to raise their proficiency to the point where they really enjoy it, so they can teach it with confidence.
Course Director Colin Taylor makes sure the business end of Pro Dive runs smoothly and students benefit from his 25 years of experience before they even arrive at Pro Dive. In addition to ensuring Pro Dive's own customer service is satisfactory, he teaches the business aspects of diving and dive travel. 'Nothing,' he says, 'can replace experience when it comes to teaching effectively.' Colin is also one of Pro Dive's nitrox and rebreather instructor trainers.
Dave Lawler was PADI's youngest ever Course Director and maintains the pace that earned him that distinction. As director of job placement, in addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dave begins working to place each Pro Dive student in an appropriate job from the first day. His efforts start with developing an effective resume and continue right through the interview process. For Dave, the job placement process is not successful if it puts a Pro Dive graduate into just any job; it's got to be the right job. Matching the candidate and the employer so both are satisfied is one of the reasons the Pro Dive job placement program is so effective.
Location and facility: Learning to be an instructor is easier if you enjoy where you are living. Good diving is important, too; who wants to spend all of their time struggling with cold water and poor visibility? Pro Dive's Ft. Lauderdale location is an excellent place to live and learn. The offices, retail store and classrooms are in the luxurious Bahia Mar Yachting Resort and Hotel, the same site chosen by author John D. MacDonald as the home of his famous fictional character, Travis McGee. Across the street is Ft. Lauderdale's popular beach and many restaurants and stores are within easy walking distance. Pro Dive has special lodging arrangements for rooms with refrigerators at two motels within a stone's throw and, of course, lodging is available at Bahia Mar. Four pools are available; one at Bahia Mar and three more next door at the Ft. Lauderdale International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Pro Diver II is a custom built, 60 foot dive boat with a fast, solid ride and plenty of space. Separate, spacious restrooms are provided for men and women, a far cry from most tiny marine heads. Hot, fresh water flows from two showers, so you don't have to feel salt-crusted on the way home. Back at the dock, students can use Pro Dive's secure boathouse for gear storage.
Diving conditions are good year-round, with water temperatures in the mid-80s (°F) in the summer and mid-70s in the winter. Visibility can be superb when the Gulf Stream brings clear, blue water to the reefs and wrecks along the South Florida coast. More than two dozen wrecks close to Pro Dive provide good training grounds for wreck and technical diving.
The right training: Similar to academic training, the instructor training at Pro Dive could be divided into two levels, undergraduate and postgraduate. The undergraduate training covers the course work from Open Water to the Instructor Development Course. The steps required by PADI for this progression are essentially standard, making the Pro Dive staff and location even more important. In the postgraduate phase, after the Instructor Evaluation, the collective training capability of Pro Dive really starts to pay off. The heart of this training is the Resort Operations Specialist program, which covers boat operation, compressor maintenance, resort scuba programs, U/W photography, resort travel, sales and human relations, coral reef ecology, drift diving procedures, computer diving, accident management and an orientation to rebreathers. This program was developed at Pro Dive specifically to prepare instructors for dive resort jobs; only at Pro Dive can you be certified by PADI as an ROS graduate. Other postgraduate course work includes 13 PADI specialty instructor ratings, nitrox instructor, nitrox blender instructor and rebreather instructor. Pro Dive's postgraduate program adds the skills that give you an edge in the job market.
Job placement: Pro Dive graduates enjoy the benefits of one of the best developed job placement services in any business. Students are often matched to prospective employers while they are still in the program. The feedback among Pro Dive and the resorts, dive operations and live-aboards that participate in their job placement program has allowed Pro Dive to tailor its postgraduate training to maximum effectiveness. It has also allowed a communication network that finds job possibilities that go unnoticed by others. The end result is that Pro Dive is extraordinarily effective at putting its graduates into good jobs.
For more information, contact Pro Dive at (888) PADI-CDC. Outside the U.S., use (954) 761-8915 for phone or fax. Pro Dive is also on the Internet: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or access the Web site at http://www.pro-dive.com.