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Seneca’s Underwater Skills program equips divers with depth of knowledge

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Diving The HMS Erebus – Courtesy of Seneca’s Underwater Skills program

Since 1974, Seneca College’s Underwater Skills Program (UWS) has been a driving force in equipping aspiring commercial divers with the required skills to meet the demands of the diving industry.

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The UWS program, located at Seneca’s King Campus, runs for 34 weeks of intensive training, starting in September and ending in June. Graduates of the UWS program are trained to take on diving careers within various sectors of the industry, including inshore and offshore construction, salvage diving, inspection and offshore oil and gas exploration. Over the course of the eight-month program, UWS students benefit from a practical learning experience that extends outside of the classroom. Pay a visit to Seneca’s King Campus on any given day, and you may see UWS students in action, going for a dive in nearby Lake Seneca. UWS students also spend time at Georgian Bay, where the deep diving portion of the program takes place.

With Seneca’s UWS program being one of just a handful of programs in Canada that specializes in commercial diving training, students are exposed to a multitude of exciting and challenging opportunities.

One noteworthy opportunity is the HMS Erebus project. When Parks Canada discovered the remains of the HMS Erebus from the famous 1845 Franklin Expedition, they reached out to the UWS program staff, to train the Parks Canada Underwater Archaeologist Team (UAT) in surface-supplied diving techniques. The UWS Team worked closely with Parks Canada to help prepare them to dive safely using advanced techniques for penetrating the wreck and managing the challenges of diving in Canada’s arctic.

As part of Seneca’s partnership with Parks Canada, the UAT will be sending archaeologists to Seneca to train students in underwater archaeological techniques.

“The 1845 Franklin Expedition and the HMS Erebus are such significant parts of Canadian history,” UWS Program Coordinator Aaron Griffin said. “I think it’s great that Seneca UWS students have the opportunity to be a part of something so unique.”

Alum Zac Bowland said UWS students are made aware of the highly competitive nature of the commercial diving industry right from the start of the program.

“Our professors told us that we have to be driven and willing to look for work if we want to make a living in this industry,” Bowland said. “If students are motivated, they will find the projects where their skills are required. They just need to be willing to go out and create opportunities.”

Since graduating from the UWS program in 2012, Bowland has travelled around the world, repairing ships and leading scientific diving projects. Today, Bowland is the Executive Director of Vanguard Diving & Exploration, where he uses citizen-science initiatives to address climate change in Himalayan glacial lakes that threaten downstream communities, infrastructure and regional economies.

Graduates like Bowland are always welcomed back by Griffin, so they can share their experiences with current UWS students on the various diving jobs and projects that the industry has to offer.

Griffin, who also graduated from Seneca’s UWS program in 1994, said that UWS continues to be the destination of choice for aspiring commercial divers because of its renowned reputation in the diving industry.

“Every year, we have noticed that there is an increased demand for commercial diving training,” Griffin said. “From a program coordinator’s point of view, that’s obviously an encouraging sign because it means students recognize that UWS is a distinguished program.”

Learn more about Seneca’s UWS program: senecacollege.ca/uws


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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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