HUDSON, Fla. -- Since its first classes in 2014, Commercial Diving Technologies Institute has trained nearly 200 students at its Pasco County facility.
- Students experience hands-on training with emphasis on safety
- 20-week course includes physics, diving lessons
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"We looked all over the state of Florida for a suitable location. We have to have a minimum of 165 feet of water for our training, and we found this location here in Pasco County," said Dive Supervisor Sid Preskitt.
The feature that made the site so attractive is a sinkhole just off of US-19 that reaches depths of 260 feet in some spots. Beneath the surface, students cut and weld metal, assemble and disassemble pipeline, and raise a sunken boat.
"We make everything as real as we possibly can, and that's our whole focus — real, hands-on training with an emphasis on safety," said Preskitt.
Preskitt began his own career in the field in the 1970s.
"There was a high rate of accidents back in those years, in the '70s," he said. "It was really like the wild, wild west in the commercial diving industry."
That's since changed, and Preskitt said there's a major focus on safety in the industry today. He said he and co-founder Ken Shelley decided to start the institute while working as dive supervisors.
"We just weren't really happy with the level of training they were receiving," Preskitt said.
The 20-week course runs five days a week and includes in its curriculum lessons on physics, physiology, medical training, and diving everyday.
"I love the thrill. That's my major thing. I love water, so I figured, hey -- why not do it?" said student Michael Saul, who began his training last month.
Saul hails from Ocala, but Preskitt said students have come from around the country. He said the institute has even had inquiries from prospective international attendees. Preskitt said graduates have gone on to find jobs around the world.
Long term, he said he wants to see the school take its offerings to the next level and offer saturation diving training, which prepares students to work at extreme depths of 700-900 feet.
"There's nobody in the United States offering that, and it's on a level of what NASA does with their astronauts, where the divers go in a living chamber, they're pressurized on helium gas, and they stay in there for days or weeks at a time," Preskitt said.