THE DIVE PRO HUB
WHY WE DON'T OFFER A DIVING INTERNSHIP
AT THE FIFTH POINT
I've got mixed feelings about diving internships. On one hand, I love the idea of on the job experience and working to pay off PADI pro training. On the other, every diving internship I've been involved with has fallen short of expectations. They always start by promising the world and a fantastic learning experience, but they end up being bad for the intern.
Let me tell you about it...
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of why we don't offer a diving internship at The Fifth Point, let me take you back to May 2019. The dive centre was growing rapidly, we desperately needed more staff. We put adverts out to hire someone and... crickets, tumbleweeds, the sound of an eagle screeching in the distance. We got no suitable applications for this paid position. Either there weren't any Divemasters in the North East looking for work or we couldn't pay enough to make a relocation worthwhile.
We decided to change our approach. We thought "maybe there's some rescue divers round here who are looking to step up to DM". So we advertised an internship for a PADI Divemaster. We didn't really want to do that (more on why in a minute), but like I said we were desperate.
We thought if we made the process and requirements very clear at the start - what we needed from the intern and what they'd receive in return, rather than it all being a bit wishy-washy like we'd seen previously then we'd be able to manage expectations better.
So, we worked out the timescales and the commitment that would be required in return for the DM program (which If I remember correctly was around £650.00 at the time).
And this is the EXACT advert we ran:
Your PADI Divemaster Internship Includes...
- Initial training will take place in the week beginning 27th May 2019
- During this week, you will work through the start of your Divemaster Course with theory presentations, confined water sessions and open water dives. You'll also be given an induction to the dive centre
- Your Internship will officially start on the 7th June 2019 and run through to the end of August. During this time, you will:
- Work Thursday to Sunday each week
- Continue to progress through your Divemaster program
- Deal with customers in the dive centre
- Assist on real life courses in the training tank, swimming pool and open water
- Act as shore cover on open water dives
- Take part and supervise our environmental activities
- As soon as your Divemaster program is complete, you will become a member of The Fifth Point Pro team. You will:
- Conduct PADI Reactivate/refresher courses in the training tank
- Conduct PADI Skin Diver courses
- Lead open water dives from shore and boat
- Assist in courses
- Act as safety diver on open water course dives
- Lead environmental activities
We're flexible on times, if the days/dates above aren't suitable for you, still get in touch - we can work something out for the right person!
We Will Also Include...
- Your Divemaster course materials (costs £260.00)
- The Project AWARE Dive Against Debris Specialty (costs £200.00)
- Your DBS check (costs £50.00)
- Your HSE Initial Medical (costs £185.00 - paid only if you pass!)
- Your Divemaster application Fee to PADI (costs £98.00 - paid on successful completion of the DM program)
- 20% discount on retail in store during your internship
- Cost Price training on any other courses you may want to take during your internship
Totally transparent, wouldn't you say? We were asking for a 3 month part-time commitment in return for training and costs covered so they could legitimately work once they were qualified. In our eyes a fair and pretty sweet deal!
How many applicants do you think we got for this position? We were beating them back with sticks right?? They were breaking down the doors to be chosen? We held "The Apprentice" style tasks in the interview process so we could choose the right candidate?
We got NO applicants for this diving internship. Were we asking too much of a time commitment? Were people thinking there weren't enough kickbacks in return? Whatever the perception, at least we made it very clear from the start what was involved. There was no over-inflated claims or false promises. It was there in black and white exactly what you'd get in return for your hard work. And by writing it down, we were committing to deliver all those things within that time frame.
But the thing is, most internships you'll come across don't have this kind of black and white commitment. Had we actually took someone on, we would even have gone so far to have signed contracts and agreements in place to make sure both parties stick to their word.
From my experience working in other dive centres around the world, that's not usually how a diving internship will go. It all starts with good intentions and wanting to do the best for each other but nothing is ever formally agreed upon. There's no schedule, no time set aside for you, no real plan to ensure that you get the training you signed up for. You just become another employee, except one that's more easily taken advantage of. You're not going to get paid as an intern. If you look at it objectively, they've got you by the short and curlies. You're free labour. Don't like the way you're treated? Well, your only option is to leave. I've been witness to this dream going sour on many occasions.
WHY A DIVING INTERNSHIP DOESN'T WORK
There's one particular internship that sticks in my mind as falling short of expectations. It was when James and I were managing a dive centre abroad. A couple struck up a deal with the dive centre owners to create a brand new website for the business in return for DM training. They were both lovely, and EPIC web designers! I wasn't involved in the explicit agreements of the deal so I couldn't tell you if there was a signed contract. All I got told was they were building a new website and Jimmy and I were to welcome them to the team as full-time staff, organise their training and get them out diving as much as possible.
As always, things started off well. They were doing their theory, cracking off workshops and progressing with their training. They'd take days off from diving to work on the website. And just like I've experienced on every diving internship I've ever been involved with, lines started to blur.
How much progress were they meant to be making with the website vs how much DM training they got in return? There was nothing discussed. It was a difficult situation to juggle as a manager. On one hand, they're a member of your team that must complete their day to day tasks. On the other hand, they're a student. Throw into the mix that they're neither a paying customer or earning a wage... it messes with your head. How do you manage a team member in this situation??
And, in order to train the interns, I had to pull instructors away from their normal teaching schedules. Most dive pros are paid on a commission basis. The more you teach/guide, the more you earn. You can imagine their faces when I asked them to jump onto an intern's course where they knew they wouldn't get paid. There's no commission from a student who's not paying for their course! I was essentially asking them to work for free so the dive centre could have a new website.
Because of this, James and I tended to cover the majority of the intern training. But we're managing a huge dive centre, a team of 25 people, 4 boats, a swimming pool oh, and a hotel. Their DM program suffered because we were struggling to find the time for it. Everything started to drag on. The website (understandably) was being delayed. Frustrations started to show, working relationships and friendships began to break down.
You can imagine how you'd be feeling if you were the intern in this situation. You'd feel short-changed. And a similar thing has happened with every internship I've seen - if I'm honest, deep down I think the same would have happened with the one we advertised in 2019. I dread to think about the situation we would have found ourselves in with signed contracts and not being able to deliver?? In hindsight, I'm glad we didn't get any applicants.
WHY PAYING FOR YOUR PRO LEVEL TRAINING IS BETTER THAN A DIVING INTERNSHIPIP
There's no hiding the fact that good PADI Pro training is not cheap. I can totally understand the draw to an internship that's going to make the whole process kinder to your bank balance. But, I honestly don't think it's worth the money you'd save.
When you're paying for training, you're a valued customer of the dive centre and you'll be treated as such. You have paid for the teaching time and to receive the expertise of your mentors. When you're on a diving internship, it's a different kettle of fish.
As an intern, you become one of the team. Your training goes to the bottom of the pile because the paying customers take priority. Your training has to fit around everything else that's going on in the dive centre. As much as you're promised the time and attention when you first agree to the diving internship, I've never seen it happen.
That's why James and I made the decision to stop offering a diving internship at The Fifth Point. We'd fall in the same trap as every other centre. I couldn't put my hand on my heart and say we'd be able to do things differently. We wouldn't be able to avoid you feeling short-changed. I don't want anyone to feel like that.
So, our Divemaster and Instructor candidates pay for their training. It's definitely not cheap, our prices are among the highest in the UK. It reflects the quality of teaching you'll receive and the 1 to 1 attention that goes along with it.
IF I DON'T GO DOWN THE DIVING INTERNSHIP ROUTE, HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST??
I guess my biggest piece of advice is to watch out for hidden costs. If you see pro training and think "woah, that's cheap!" you can bet your bottom dollar there are hidden costs. It might be they've sneakily not included materials or PADI fees to make the price seem more competitive. Thing is, you can't get away from these costs... you will have to pay them eventually, they're not optional extras! Make sure you do your research.
I also always tell my candidates that the price isn't the most important thing. You need to find the dive centre that's the right fit - the one that shares your diving ethos, where you know you're going to click with the team. You really need to get to know the people you'll be working with as they're going to become your mentors for the rest of your diving career. Find the dive centre that feels right for you and where you're going to get the most out of your training, not the one that works out the cheapest.
If you're currently pricing up a PADI Instructor Development Course, I wrote a guide that helps you decide the best place to do it. It also includes a cool budgeting and comparison tool that will help with your research and make sure you're avoiding a nasty shock from hidden costs further down the line. You can download it here. Although it's for IDCs, you can still apply the tool to researching Divemaster Courses too.