February 28, 2020: With the wholehearted endorsement of the entire NSS-CDS Training Committee, I’ve been nominated to serve as the next Training Chairman. As I am running unopposed, I needn’t put forth much in the way of a platform statement. However, I will, because I think our instructors deserve to know more.
The short version is this: If you like the changes you’ve seen in the past nine months, you can relax. We are continuing in the same direction and hope to accomplish even more in the next two years.
It’s a team effort
Reggie Ross was wise enough to know being Training Chairman is not a one-person job. So, for his Training Committee, he put together a team of some of the CDS’s most experienced instructor trainers and evaluators. He then delegated tasks according to each team member’s abilities. The result was that, in a short period of time, the team was able to accomplish far more than any one person could do by himself.
Reggie was also smart enough to ensure that, should anything happen to him, the work he started could continue unabated. And it has.
What we’ve accomplished in just the past nine months
You are undoubtedly aware of much of what we’ve accomplished; however, you may not be aware of everything.
- To start, there has been a much-needed overhaul of both the entry-level and leadership portions of standards. The revised standards not only reflect how today’s students learn and how our instructors teach, they raise the bar for getting into Cave Diver training and what students must do to complete that training.
- My personal contribution to the revised standards was the CDS Basics Orientation. This is one of the ways we help ensure our cave students have more than just a basic recreational scuba background.
- The Training portion of the NSS-CDS website has been updated to be easier to navigate and better reflect the new standards.
- NSS-CDS Instructors can now pay for student registrations, renewals and materials with major credit cards, no matter where in the world they live. (Thanks to Brett Floren for his help in this.)
- The student registration process has been streamlined. You can register and pay for registrations by going to a single location. There is no longer a need to go to separate parts of the website for this.
- Similarly, the instructor renewal process has also been overhauled. It is now entirely online and does not require printing or mailing pages and pages of paper forms.
- We’ve completely overhauled our forms and applications. They are now all clean, professional-looking Adobe Acrobat PDFs. And, because they fully leverage all of Acrobat’s features, make it possible to be a CDS instructor without printing out a single sheet of paper.
- Training Committee members and other CDS Instructors, with help from Board members Brett Floren and Renee Power, spearheaded our presence at this past year’s DEMA Show in Orlando. Our brand-new booth helped present the Section in a very professional light, and we took in far more in sales than attending the show cost us.
- Finally, we’ve been able to deal with information that was missing from our instructor records, so that every CDS Instructor is getting credit for the ratings he or she has earned.
So, what does the future hold?
As I said going in, my goals include not only continuing the work Reggie started but doing even more.
- To start, I plan to keep the current Training Committee intact. It makes no sense to not utilize such an accomplished team. The current committee not only includes some of our most experienced instructor trainers and evaluators, but two past Training Chairmen. Together, they represent institutional memory we can’t afford to lose.
- The work of standards updates and revisions continues. Shortly, we will have updated standards for CCR, DPV, Stage and Advanced Sidemount Diver courses.
- The eLearning course you completed for your Instructor Update was just the beginning. We hope to have online training for Cave Diver and other courses soon.
- We are looking to further streamline the process of student registrations and renewals. This includes getting student photos and registration numbers on the cards.
- We will be having an even larger presence at the 2020 DEMA show in New Orleans.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The more we accomplish, the more opportunities we discover for further improvement.
Among the biggest challenges we face is managing growth. There are currently just over 40 active NSS-CDS Instructors. This is less than half of what we had just a few years ago.
To make the Training Program economically viable need to have closer to 100 instructors. Doing so would:
- Help ensure we have enough student registration and instructor renewal fees to cover the cost of running the Training Program with the level of professionalism our instructors now expect.
- Give the NSS-CDS more visibility as a Cave Diver training organization. At one time, everyone seemed to know not only who the CDS was, but that we represented the pinnacle of achievement in Cave Diver training. Unfortunately, there are now competing organizations that are far more visible than we are.
The catch is, we don’t want just anyone to become an NSS-CDS Instructor. We never have and never will.
During the past nine months, we added a grand total of two new instructors to our ranks. This is not sufficient to achieve the growth we need.
While there may be a few more instructors in the USA whom we would like to add to our ranks, the fact remains we already have the best ones. We do not want to compromise quality just to get a few more instructors. So, what do we do?
The answer lies outside the USA. While non-USA instructors represent over 40 percent of our total instructor population, we are woefully underrepresented in regions such as Mexico, where just 12 percent of the cave instructor population certifies through the NSS-CDS.
There are some very good cave instructors teaching in Mexico. Ones who share our commitment to quality. We need them.
We also need the very best instructors from areas such as Eastern and Western Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia. The Internet makes it possible for these instructors to participate as fully as those in the USA do. We just need to find them.
This is among the reasons the Training Committee chose me as their candidate for Chairmanship. I will be the first NSS-CDS Training Chairman who is not native to the USA. I travel extensively overseas and am uniquely qualified to help achieve the international growth we need.
As I mentioned going in, each Training Committee member has his own unique skills and abilities. Training international instructors is mine.
If you have questions about the NSS-CDS Training Program, I will be happy to answer them. Between now and June 1, you can reach me at Max@CaveMax.com. After June 1, my address will be Training@nsscds.org. I look forward to hearing from you.