Watersports high school option, not a career choice

| 20/05/2014

(CNS Business Video): Reef Divers Cayman Brac has been working with the high school on the island since 2007 to provide a watersports vocational course as an introduction to the diving industry. Over the last seven years more than 30 students have been through the course but not one of them has chosen diving as a career. Talking to CNS Business in this week’s video interview, Dive Operations Manager Mick Maher says that diving offers a good living on the island and is a lot of fun, but young people just aren’t entering the industry. Reef Divers took over the high school programme on the Brac after the Divi Tiara closed down in 2006, and they teach courses through to Rescue Diver to students who choose it as an option in Years 11 and 12.

The only working locally born divemaster on the island, BJ Walton (26), went through the programme at high school and then worked with the Divi dive operation to gain his divemasters certification.

Maher says the job is not just about safety and leading a dive but about entertaining, and for local divemasters it’s about representing your island.

Watch interview on CNS Business

The interview with Maher continues tomorrow.

Later this week, CNS Business talks to Cayman Islands Diving Hall of Fame member, Cornell Burke, a former dive manager with Brac Aquatics.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It has always been sad that since diving became so popular in Cayman  there isn't any dive instructor level training. Really very easy to do here ,clear calm waters, very little storms , warm 365 days of the year. I mean there really isn't any excuse for it. As far as a lot of work, well I mean putting on your bathing suit slip into a BCD connected to a tank ,mask snorkel and fins, weight belt voila diving at its finest. The work part of it is greeting guests help them with their gear or steady young, old guests to ramp into water and lead one deep dive per day. Second dive do same again except stay on board boat and watch bubbles to see that divers stay in area. They should come up on time in the old days but with dive computers thats all done for them . Help guests with weight belts and gear as they come back to boat . Once everyone is accounted for, start back to dive shop or drop off on beach pickup. As the lead dive instructor or boat capt give briefings about dive sites and precautions. Then the real work begins if you're not rushing to the photo lab. The grunt work : fill the boat up with tanks for the afternoon dive or tomorrows dive and clean , tie boat on mooring . Go home unless you're lucky and have some resort courese to do. Hmm not such a bad job, certainly no more then one hour per day of hard work ( loading boat with tanks) . Small company less tanks Large company more tanks. The guy whoworks the hardest ?? The tank filler the newby usually some kid who has been promised if he works long enough he will be trained for free to be a divemaster. Unfortunately he never gets past certified open water diver and he doesn't make enough money to pay for all the rest of the course to be an instructor. Solution? It has to be offered in school, all the way to instructor. 

    If one will ask most instructors ,who come here to get jobs in Cayman . How did you get your instructor certification? You will find they did not fill tanks in a dive resort. They went to a instructor school ( most of them) about four months.

    • Anonymous says:

      Interesting, some of the best dive masters (retired now) here are native Caymanians.  Former Dive Masters like Mr. Ebanks and Evans taught many worker who came here in the 1970s to be Dive Masters some of whom later become business owners/real estate company owners and have become wealthy caymanians.   Natives take to the sea like fish and majority did not have to take certification courses on how to dive in open water they just took the course because it was part of the requirement as a dive master.  Very few if any Caymanian (Male/Female) over the age of 28  that do not know how to swim and dive, this was our rite of passage.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My late husband just loved diving with the local dive masters, with local boat crews. (70, 80's). Said you could ask a question about the Islands they knew the answers, plus were proud of thier Isalnds. Later years NONE could answer one question about history, people etc. or knowing any things about the dive site. Our whole group of 18 loved the local group…Also bartenders, servers, room maids were local….Now days hard to find any locals working in these fields. SO SAD  The Brac lost most of its charm. Plus most now you cannot understand, their English Sucks.. Just Saying,,

    • Anonymous says:

      You may be right about the dive masters, although it sounds like looking through 40 year old rose colored glasses. The local servers, maids, etc were another story. Curt and bossy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank God for the internet when people get on this site and spew garbage about Caymanians not wanting to work and we are xenophobia with an entitled mentality.  If our government should dare to enact immigration policies in our favour the cry is that we don't want migrants here and it's against human rights.  Caymanians need to read more, enjoy


    Enough said!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow the Telegraph?  You will be citing the Daily Mail next.

      • Anonymous says:

        7:10  In Reply

        The truth hurts – people have a certian view of themselves that they like to maintain. Not only that,  they may also maintain an image of someone that they DON'T want to be. So when someone points out a negative trait (or any trait) that does not fit with their preconcived view, this makes them very uncomfortable.  And it is even worst when the trait is part of an image that they don't want to be associated with, as a result they try to discredit any source.

        Enough Said

  4. Anonymous says:

    I see many sides to this debate.  I agree that it is hard work, 7 days a week, and no holidays off. But… It's a labour of love.  It isn't a paid holiday and you'll never get rich being in the dive industry.  A smart owner would sell the business and invest their money where the return is higher and the risk is lower.  But they don't sell because they love diving.  

    I also think that something for free isn't worth having.  If you want to be an instructor you have to work hard and save.  The helping hand has to stop somewhere.  The free ride to the top would lead to a lower standard of care in the industry which would hurt the reputation of the islands.

    The issue isn't how many locals become dive professionals but how many want to dive.  The  individual that commented on the lack of interest might be right. The local culture is inhibiting  their ability to relate to this job.  With the small number of locals learning to dive and even less continuing to dive it would be expected to not have many in the profession. 


  5. Anonymous says:

    When I went on a vacation to Costa Rica, I was so impressed that at every corner and turn there was a Costa Rican national working in the tourism industry and they did so with great pride. Bartenders, Room Maids, Front Desk, Wildlife Tour Guides, Hotel Managers, Restaurant Managers, Travel Agency, Rental Car, you name it. I had some conversations with the Wildlife Tour Guides and they confirmed that they did go to a school to get a certification in that area to learn about the Wildlife and its preservation. They wereso passionate and happy to share their information and it was clear to everyone we encountered that they understood that tourism is a big money maker for Costa Rica and provides them with a job.

    In Cayman, working in the tourism industry is being looked at as a step down, rather than a step in with the potential to many steps up. It is such a shame!

  6. Whodatis says:

    By the way folks, speaking as a multi-generational native Caymanian, there is nothing about this story that surprises or stands out to me.

    The reasons why most Caymanians are not interested in a career in the field of scuba diving is deeply entrenched in our culture, history and legacy. So much so that most of us do not even realize the anomaly exists.

    It is also a reality that is next to impossible to rationalize. Nevertheless, it is what it is.

    (The high percentage of faraway foreigners that make up the numbers in the scuba and underwater industries the world over suggests that we are not alone in this reality.)

    • Whodatis says:

      Correction: "…the region over…"

    • Anonymous says:

      Good point whodat

    • Anonymous says:

      Seriously.  Caymanians have a cultural aversion to leading / teaching scuba activities? Presumably this stems from their generations of exploring the seas without the aid of breathing equipment. I get it.

      This puts into perspective the cultural stress that so many of our countrymen are under in the workplace.You see I also get how things like garbage collecting was never a career while Cayman was building its culture so that is a perfectly obvious reason why there is a cultural aversion and block for many Caymanians seeking employment not being able to come to terms with accepting that type of work.

      Indeed, near impossible as overcoming such cultural / heritage obstacles is, we must celebrate the heroic few who manage to put such things aside and work in the present day Cayman environment.

      Caymanians have a wondeful cultural history of travelling beyond our shores – doing so long before those new fangled things called airliners ever came into common usage and invaded the Cayman environs. As a result I feel incredible admiration for the personal sacrifice and cultural / heritage shock endured  by Caymanians who have sacrificed so much to take on a career in the aviation industry..and the lawyers and the accountants and…all those new professions that have come to Cayman since the formative days of Cayman culture / heritage.

      ….or maybe money big buck salaries is a cure all for cultural shock.

      • Anonymous says:

        Seriously, I think you did get it right. A large paycheck overcomes a lot of aversion. It would be an interesting social experiment. Lets pay garbage men as much as lawyers and lawyers like garbage men for a generation and see what happens.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This information is incorrect. One graduate of that course has been working as a dive master and he is very sought after by returning guests. They LOVE being led by a Bracker.

    CNS: You mean a divemaster other than BJ who is referred to in the second paragraph?

  8. Anonymous says:

    They don't enter the industry because no one wants to bust their butt all day 6 maybe 7 days a week for 1500/2000$ a month. While it's better than nothing at all it's not what kids if today are looking for. Until the industry understands people need to be paid a wage that's in line with the cost of living local kids won't show any interest in the dive industry. I grew up in the dive industry and never bothered. If kids want to earn money get them involved in the bar and restaurant industry. 

    • Anonymous says:

      I think your thinking is flawed. You don't get to take a recreational course and step into a job to support you and your hot rod. It's called a foot in the door and it can lead ANYWHERE!

    • Anonymous says:

      Where do you get paid $1500-$2000 a month? The base rate is, and always has been, a lot less than that because most ex-pats coming on island do it as lttle more than a paying holiday.  

      • Anonymous says:

        15:22 FYI, I was paid $1500-$2000 (often time more) per month in 1983 on my secondary job waiting tables in the evenings, this did not include the salary I got from my primary job working in the financial industry from 8:30 until 5:00.  I guess those were the good old days. I note that you are not Caymanian and in addition a "Newbie" but just ask anyone that worked in the hospitality industry at that time and see what they will tell you. I remember it like yesterday because I was still a teenager and was able to purchase my first piece of property at age 18.  Majority of the teenagers of that era were happy to hold two jobs but like the story of the fox and the grapes the fox saw the grapes and wanted it but he was not able to, so he stuck his nose in the air and walked away saying they are sour anyway, only difference those that came here wanted what we had and were patient and cunning enough to stay around and label us as being lazy, with an entitled attitude and when they got an opportunity they went and worked for three times less than what we were being paid so that they could get their foot in the door thus pushing "us" all out of the hospitality industry but saying that we did not want to work there. Maybe people like you should go find a native Caymanian that worked in the hospitality and dive industry (there are a few still around) sit and have a chat with them and let them tell you who worked at La Fountain, Seaview, Cayman Arms, Sunset House, Ambassador's Inn, Grand Old House, Lobster Pot, Cook Rum, Almond Tree, Pageant Beach, Beach Club, Royal Palms, West Indian Club, Caribbean Club, Galleon Beach, Holiday Inn, the restaurants in Coconut Place (Quattros place can't remember the name), Crack Conch, Spanish Bay in West Bay, Tortuga Club in East End, Rum Point and Drift Wood in North Side.

        Armed with this information I can only hope that your attitude towards Caymanians change in time and you will get to know us before you speak, learn about the real Cayman  get to know us from those who know us prior to the construction boom of the 1970s speak to the real McCoys (Natives) they will enlighten you in a very good way so that you will change your predisposed concept of Caymanians and things Caymanian.

    • Django says:

      YOu kidding right? For someone in their late teens or ealry twenties to be earning $1500 to $2000 a month is massive!! rather than the industry changing maybe your unrelaisitc expectations need to….

      • Anonymous says:

        Django where are you living over twenty years ago I made $1,500 per month, it was s time when as a young person you could save something towards getting a piece of land that would cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 now the less expensive piece of land you can find anywhere in Cayman is about $35,000 the price of basic items and utilities have risen about 10 percent.  Now I understand why our young people are so disillusioned.  Karma, is right around the cornor.    

    • Anonymous says:

      You gotta be friking kidding me.

      $1500 to $2000.  Give me a mask and snorkle so I can get going.

      Now we can see where all this stupidness is coming from. So I guess they will never eat that 2 for $5 at BK. How utterly stupid can you be to think that salary is the reason for them not to enter into that industry.

      You started to post correct but you continued. "no one wants to bust their butt all day 6 maybe 7 days a week". Thats where you should have stopped.

      Exactly, nothing will be too much soon.

      We should take into consideration all those un-necessary burdens we place on Goverment.

      Yes at this rate, teach your children to stay home and do nothing. Smoke some weed, and when you get home, "mama I hungry". Then every other weekend you can take them if possible to the Northward Hotel for a stacation, if they not already there.

      Stupid rabbit, dont you know who Trix is for anymore?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, right, they should all get paid $6-7,000 a month before you even get a Caymanian interested, right? Go and smell the roses.

    • Anonymous says:

      13:05.   You may be right in saying that they are not entering the industry ,but I do not believe the wages are anywhere near $1500 pm.I have seen these jobs advertised locally for as little as USD$4.50 per hr. At that rate one would be required to work close to 77hrs per week  to earn USD$1500 pm.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a great opportunity and a great start for young people.  You have to start somewhere and work your way up but sadly some people want CEO positions handed to them right out of high school and some people think that's what they should get…. Good Luck with that!

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is a crying shame as tourism should always belong to the indigenous persons of a country or island.  Now you have expats/tourist taking out tourist with no affliation with concepts and the real history of how it begun.  If I go to China I expect a person of that country notably Chinese to talk about the history and culture not somebody from Poland or South Afica (God forbid) telling me about the country.  Only in the Cayman Islands

  11. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps if they offered more than just the divemaster certification, more local people would be involved. You cannot make a career being a dive master in Cayman, you have to at least have a instructors certification because the fact of the matter is that our dive tourism industry is quite saturated, and lets be honest – most of the people who work in the watersports/dive industry are not Caymanian. When these kids go through this vocational program and get their divemaster certification, they're essentially in the same position they were before they went through the program since they aren't qualified for the job – offer tandem courses perhaps in more specialised areas like advanced air diving, or instructors certifications or even underwater naturalist, or aquatic first responders. These small courses can make a huge difference in the competitive nature of the industry.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not a dive shop owner. But I know a couple. I don't think there are many in Cayman that would turn down a young Caymanian dive master who came and said 'I want to work hauling tanks and doing other DM work while I work towards the rest of my professional certifications'. Many would take someone without even an Open Water Certification who said that and give them the training on-the-job. Its like any other 'entry level' position. I didn't come out of high school, or even college, knowing everyhting I needed to know. But I knew enough to show my boss I was worth investing an entry level position in.

    • Anonymous says:

      The key statistic here is: 30 students in last 7 years.  Shame on schools fornot promoting this educational initiative.  There are YMCA's in land-locked areas of North America with higher scuba sign-up rates.

      CNS Note:

      1. This is on the Brac, where the average year group size is about 25-30 students – I believe there are similar programmes on Grand Cayman – and that the programme could not operate the year of Hurricane Paloma.
      2. I can say, because both my children attended the Brac high school, that it is promoted sufficiently at school.
      3. This article is about a specific programme that is a vocational option at Years 11 and 12. Martin Van der Touw at Brac Scuba Shack has also taught a number of school age children (including one of mine) to dive for free outside school hours.
    • Anonymous says:

      An instructor certification course must be taught by someone with a Course Director level of certification.  There are currently less than a handful of Course Directors working in Cayman. The instrucors generously offering training to these youths on the Brac are not able to train them up to the level of instructor.  

      When I earned my instructor rating I had to pay for my training every step of the way.  It was a few thousand dollars alltogether.  Any certifications these kids earn now put them far ahead financially should they choose to pursue diving as a career and seek out an instructor credential.

      When someone offers all they are able to give, thousands of dollars worth of diving and training, then the polite thing is to thank them and not complain that you are not getting all you want.

  12. Anonymous says:

    They would rather be unemployed, depend on their families or Government, or steal, and complain about foreigners taking their jobs I guess. 

    • Whodatis says:

      Hmmm … thanks to your post, I have never been more certain of our "British" nationality.

      (Your description fits perfectly in the "mother country" today. Anyone in the know knows this is true.)


      • Django says:

        Why so sensitive Whodatis? Rather than commenting on the issue you have to take pot shots, seems this is common in Cayman, forget the issue at hand or a solution to solve it, just bash, bash, bash

        • Whodatis says:

          Hmmm … try to keep up buddy.

          The fact that I was replying to what was an incredible pot shot against Caymanians should let you know my frame of mind at the time.

          By the way, was there a particular reason why you bypassed and overlooked that original pot shot and decided to confront Whodatis'? Or is it simply a case of you genuinely believing and agreeing with his sentiments therefore rendering his degrading comments as acceptable and truth?

    • Anonymous says:

      Can't agree with that one I have a young kid willing to work but no one will hire him but I see People hiring criminals..  sad!!

      • Anonymous says:

        I can't imagine a young kid can't get a job. How about at any of the fast food places? Landscaping/gardening? The movie theatre? Ice cream shop? A job on the beach? A hotel?

        Those are to name a few. Make sure he/she brings a pen when they go to fill out the application and dresses to impress. Good luck!

      • Anonymous says:

        Really?? Our company has had 3 levels of watersports jobs (including entry-level/no experience) posted on NWDA website for almost a year with only 1 applicant. Who was hired immediately, only to have him to stop showing up after 3 weeks. His excuse "the bus cost too much to come to work"… (note: 1 hour of work paid for his round trip bus fare).

        There are jobs out there, but unfortunately they require you to work. My first jobs where not glamorous: digging holes for landscaping, cleaning boats and boring desk jobs. But they paid my bills and allowed me to work my way up the ladder. And still I am happy to bring home a living wage of US$2500/month even with 10+ years experience in my field. Our company hires Caymanians with little to no experience with similar pay, and still has trouble retaining them for longer than a few months.

         I understand that there are Caymanians being passed over for many positions, but there are also Caymanians passing over lots of jobs that would be considered sufficient and fairly compensated jobs, especially in watersports.

    • anonymous says:

      No no no, you wrong. Just too much work.