Holland College Commercial Diving: Instructors’ Backgrounds & Perspectives

Holland College Student

Diving Program

The Commercial Diving program at Holland College provides graduates with all the skills and certificates required for immediate employment in virtually any jurisdiction in the world.

Commercially trained surface supplied hard hat divers are referred to by many as underwater welders. The Holland College Marine Training Center’s program specializes in underwater welding. The program trains underwater welders to perform all the commercial diving techniques required of a person employed in this exciting career.

Skill sets Gained

Some of the skills the students master during the 9-month program include underwater welding, burning, construction, inspection, maintenance, and repair technologies.

Certifications for the Future

Graduates receive the Divers Certification Board of Canada (DCBC) unrestricted surface supplied diver certificate. In Canada, the DCBC is the only national body that certifies occupational divers and is also recognized by National Energy Board of Canada (NEB), Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), and Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNOPB).

Other certificates graduates receive are ADCI (Entry level Diver/Tender), MED A1, CPR, First Aid, Oxygen administration, and WHMIS.

To qualify for graduation and the DCBC certificate, students dive in the latest commercial equipment available and experience four different sites to a maximum air diving depth of 50 meters. These greater depths are logged during a deep dive field trip to Halifax Nova Scotia’s Bedford Basin. At this site, students live on board an offshore dive vessel and dive an IMCA certified offshore dive spread using a wet bell system. This unique module provides students with real offshore dive training on equipment, systems, and procedures that are a standard in the offshore oil and gas diving industries. This is a US Federal Aid Approved program.

Holland College Instructor Experiences

Program instructors Eldon Murphy and Kimball Johnston have extensive experience as professional commercial divers, and are committed to preparing the students to enter the field with appropriate skills and a healthy respect for safety procedures.

Holland College Instructor Eldon
Commercial Diving Instructor Eldon Murphy

Eldon has been an instructor in the program for 11 years. Before he joined the college, he worked in the marine industry for several companies in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, including CNR, Ship to Shore and East Dive.

Holland College Instructor Kimball
Commercial Diving Instructor Kimball Johnston

Kimball worked in the industry for Marine Atlantic, CNR, Ship to Shore, and was owner of Amphibious Welding. He’s been a journeyman red seal welder since 1990 and is an expert in underwater and surface welding.

Q&A with Kimball & Eldon

What’s one of the most common misconceptions students have about careers in the commercial diving industry?

Kimball: That they’re going to become wealthy in a short period of time, and that it’s easy.

Eldon: They also think that it’s an adventure. It’s not. It’s a job…a job that happens to be underwater. It’s like this: if we taught you to drive a car so that you could go to the widget factory, you’d still need to know what to do at the factory once you got there.

Kimball: Diving is a vehicle to get to your worksite. Once you get to your worksite, you’ve got to know how to work, whether you’re an electrician, a plumber, a welder – whatever the job entails.

Is it necessary to have a trade before applying to the program?

Kimball: Not necessarily. You could take Commercial Diving first and then pursue a trade credential. We teach some rudimentary trade skills to get students familiar with some common tasks; but people interested in a career in the industry should be prepared to take trades’ training too if they don’t already have it.

Your program has several prerequisites, including an Open Water Scuba Diving Certificate. What ways do these requirements affect your class size and student skill level?

Eldon: We have the Open Water Scuba Diving Certificate as a prerequisite because we need all the students to have a common starting point. In the past, we’ve had students who had never dived before, and then found out they didn’t like it. Our class sizes are small so we can give individual attention to students, but they need to have a certain level of expertise so that we can cover all of the training that we need to cover in order for them to graduate.

Holland College Diving Tanks
Holland College recently installed new tanks for use in their program.

How much of your time is spent in the classroom teaching versus application?

Eldon: We spend about 30 percent of our time in the classroom; the other 70 percent is spent diving and learning practical skills. Safety is of the utmost importance, so we spend a great deal of time going over the correct procedures. We need to have confidence in the students, and they need to learn to trust us, too. To thrive in the industry, you need to be able to work on a team. It’s not about being an individual, but it IS about being trustworthy and diligent about safety, so we spend a great deal of time ensuring that the students are familiar with all of the procedures, and that they would follow the proper procedures in an emergency. There’s only one way to rescue a diver, and we want to make sure that they can act without hesitation.

What are some of the facilities used at the marine center for training, and how do these help the student cope in a professional diving environment?

Holland College has just purchased two wet welding tanks with large viewing ports, which will be used indoors. These tanks will allow us to closely monitor the students during underwater welding training and give them immediate feedback as they practice. Our Commercial Diving program specializes in welding, and this will help us produce the best welders.

In your courses, what are some of the concepts and/or projects that students find most challenging to complete?

Kimball: Students who are well suited for the program won’t find it challenging – but they will find it very engaging.

Eldon: For some students, the physical demands are a challenge. They need to be able to lift quite a bit of weight, and need to be in top physical condition.

Underwater Welding Tank
The tanks work well for underwater welding and other commercial diving application.

What are skills that students are most anxious to learn?

Eldon: A lot of students are excited about using a welder underwater for the first time. It’s a task that requires concentration and attention to detail, so we review the process and safety procedures many times before they are permitted to attempt it.

What are some of the ways Holland College’s commercial diving program has changed/evolved over time?

Kimball: Changes to our curriculum are instituted because of changes the Divers Certification Board of Canada regulations; we ensure that we follow the regulations, and augment the basic requirements to suit the students’ needs.

Eldon: A few years ago we relocated the program from the college’s Georgetown Centre, which is located in the eastern part of Prince Edward Island, to the Marine Training Centre on the college’s Summerside Waterfront Campus. The move meant that our students could interact with other marine training students, which makes it a more realistic environment. If they were diving from ships, these are the people with whom they would be communicating every day. The relocation also means that we can now do training dives off the wharf next to our building, and we do, year round!

How do you feel your diving program stands out from some of the other diving programs in Canada and the US?

Eldon: More importantly than how I feel, I have received a lot of feedback from industry that suggests that our students are better qualified than students trained the United States.


You can find more information on the Holland College commercial diving and underwater welding program and contact the school directly.