Dive into a new career

Published: 18 Jan 2016

The reality of working in one of the most extreme and harsh environments on the planet, and the many challenges faced by those who make it their livelihood, are not something which can be easily translated from a textbook or in a classroom.

Universities across the UK are now teaching a wide range of courses related to the oil and gas industry, as well as the impact it has on the environment.  However, most students will not have the opportunity to experience first-hand the rigours of working offshore or subsea while completing their studies.

The Underwater Centre in Fort William, the world’s leading trainer of ROV pilot technicians and commercial divers, is addressing this by offering courses to postgraduate students and academics, allowing them the opportunity to learn more about the industry.

The centre is currently working with a number of academic institutions, including Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen, to incorporate a commercial diving familiarisation course into their student prospectus.  Consequently, as part of RGU’s recently introduced MSc in Subsea Engineering, a number of students  visited the centre to complete the week-long course, Humans in the Ocean.

Stavros Vrachliotis

Meanwhile, postgraduate students from the Natural Environment Research Council’s Oil and Gas Centre for Doctoral Training (NERC O&G CDT) – which comprises 17 academic partner universities, including Aberdeen, along with 12 associate academic partners – have also visited the purpose-built subsea training and trials facility.

Located on the shores of a tidal sea loch, Loch Linnhe, the centre provides an ideal location at which to experience the practical side of subsea operations for the NERC students working on projects as disparate as environmental monitoring, offshore civil engineering and hydrocarbon exploration.

The new course allowed them to understand the economic and operational realities of data collection, monitoring and technical capabilities in the offshore realm. They were also taught new subjects through classroom-based theoretical training sessions, and were given an opportunity to consider how the areas of expertise on show at The Underwater Centre related to their own future research.

Students also visited the centre’s surface supplied Nitrox and surface supplied diving sites and the saturation diver training barge, as well as a tour of the Centre’s recompression chamber facility and ROV training spread.  The students undertook classroom sessions on diving physics, diving physiology, gases and diving systems.

NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow and member of the CDT training committee Dr Kate Gormley said it was important for students to have hands-on experience of the industry, allowing them to better understand how their own research fits into the bigger picture and context of oil and gas production.

The Underwater Centre’s commercial director, Steve Ham, said feedback from the initiative had been so successful that they have already lined up a number of similar courses for academic institutions this year.

“The feedback we have received from the students has been hugely positive, as they now have a much better understanding of the industry and the context in which it operates,” he said.

“It’s only when you meet ROV pilots and divers, and talk to them about their own personal experiences and see the locations in which they live and work, that you can really understand properly the challenges they face on a daily basis in what can be a very hostile environment.  The Underwater Centre is perfectly placed to offer that experience.”

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