My training started with welding school at Airco Technical Institute in Chicago. After graduation I did my ironworks apprenticeship. After six years of welding, I made the decision to attend The Divers Institute of Technology (DIT). With my welding training, experience and new diving training, I landed my first diving job in Hawaii and started to dive right away.
Pearl Harbor Project
One of my most challenging projects started where my new career began. It was the first large, long-term project in Pearl Harbor. Everything with marine construction was so different from the construction projects I had performed in the past.
New terms. New tools. All in the water.
Everything was challenging, but with time I became confident and our crew could count on me to perform. I felt content, knowing I could contribute to our team in meaningful ways while gaining experience for whatever lay ahead.
Instructing: Transition to DIT
My teaching career began at a technical college running the welding program, but I missed the close proximity of my natural environment – the water.
Teaching was always in the back of my mind as I was getting older, so it seemed a natural position for me. One night, I sent an e-mail to DIT to inquire about a position as an instructor. It just so happened they needed a new welding instructor. Right place at the right time, and now four years later I still could not be in a better place.
I am the welding department head; I teach underwater welding and burning along with topside welding and cutting. As a dive supervisor, I can fit into any of the modules here at DIT but primarily, I teach welding.
The Divers Institute moved into a new campus facility four years ago, and I took on a project to make the welding shop training space state-of-the-art. With support of management we have a very impressive welding training space.
We are very proud of our new campus.
My career has been very diverse. I share that experience with my students. One of the greatest benefits of the student here at DIT is their exposure to the instructors and the diversity of the instructor experiences. It gives them so many different perspective of the industry.
I have a couple of projects for the students, always considering their ability as I don’t want to make the project to difficult so as to affect morale. We keep it interesting and challenging, and when the student has that moment when their effort pays off with the result they were hoping for, that is very satisfying as an instructor.
The student body here is great, all the staff make an effort to gain a little personal relationship with each student as best we can. It make for a very close and lively campus.
Living the Dream: Reward of an Investment
Personal rewards happen every day, but it is greatest when a post-graduate student returns to the campus and thanks me for what I had done for them during their time here. They tell me they are literally, “living the dream”.
Jim Bernacki is an instructor at Divers Institute of Technology. He teaches welding and burning courses, helping students who want to work in the maritime industry as commercial divers.