City College program profile: Marine diving technologies
Writer: Miguel Arana
September 24, 2008
Filed under Uncategorized
The equipment is bulky, heavy and astronaut-like, looking like something from Captain Nemo and the Nautilus.
But the 20,000 leagues of underwater traveling will not be fiction for most of the students of the marine diving technologies department, who will spend a large amount of time under water.
The first eight weeks of training starts in a pool with two instructors, whom are present at all times, in a very controlled environment.
The second eight weeks, students go to the sea to develop rescue skills. They also learn rigging, which is the art of tying knots, first aid, hydraulics and how to operate a boat.
Geoff Thielst, director of the Marine Diving Technology Department holds an associate’s degree in Marine Technology from City College and a bachelor’s degree in occupational studies from California State University Long Beach.2
He has taught for nine years and has worked as a commercial diver for more than 20 years, in a variety of locations, including the Gulf of Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Nigeria. He came back to City College to complete his circle of life.
Graduates work in many different fields, such as recreational divers, submarine pilots, life support technicians and in the hyperbaric medical fields.
“I will work anywhere in the world,” City College student Kevin Todd said. “I want to get my degree and get hired by a company.”
And his expectations are not unrealistic. According to Thielst, divers are always hired to work on docks, piers, dams and bridges. If it is near the water or in the water there are divers working on it.
“After hurricane Katrina the diving contractors needed more divers than they had,” Thielst said. “Wages went up severely, and other incentives to work down there were [also] provided.”
The program does not start from scratch. Anyone who is interested has to have a scuba diving certification from a national recognized diving school, then pass a swimming evaluation, a drug screen and pass an industry standard physical to make sure that the applicants are healthy enough for the program.
The City College marine diving technologies program is the only community college degree program in the nation, which is accredited by both the Association of Commercial Diving Educators and the National Association of Underwater Instructors.
Students who enroll in Marine Technology have options to obtain an associate’s degree in Marine Technology or a certificate from both the American National Standards Institute and the Association of Diving Contractors.
“The training is not hard, but challenging,” diving student William Cerda said. Creda is currently pursuing a certificate in marine diving technologies and expects to work with remote operating vehicles or submarines.
The training has to be challenging because commercial divers carry much heavier equipment than recreational scuba divers and are exposed to more risks under the water.
Therefore, the preparation is rigorous.
“We turn off their air, we take their regulators away, and we make them take off their masks,” Thielst said, when referring to teaching students how to breathe under water and without their masks.
“We are really trying to get them to a higher level,” Thielst said.