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There's more to welding than just burning a rod says David J Keats of Speciality Enterprises.
The diving industry is unique in how it operates with its personnel. Unlike an engineering employer, who takes on apprentices and obtains government funding for day release or full/part-time education where an apprentice may be rewarded with a National Vocational Qualification, the diving industry mainly operates through sub­contract or self-employed routes, so the 'standard'route to education and qualification is not normally available (unless already qualified). This places the emphasis for any qualifications firmly with the individual diver, not the employer.
Welding is an important skill for the diving industry and such recognition and availability is essential to industry. In welding, the term 'quali£ication' tends to have a specific meaning, which is simply understood as a coding (i.e. a practical weld test in which the welder demonstrates their physical skills and abilities). Of course, this element of the welder's ability is essential as welding is a craftskill and physical ability is a major part of the job. But remember, for normal engineering industries this physical skill is supplemented with a number of years at college (i.e. ONC/HNC/HND etc.).
More importantly, a management structure exists where a foreman, senior engineers, supervisors and inspectors are employed by the company, and ultimately the responsibility for welding does not lay with the welder himself. Generally, this type of structure does not exist within an inshore or offshore diving company. A diver-welder may find himself the only competent welding person onsite, therefore it is essential that he has a more extensive understanding/knowledge of welding than simply being able to deposit nice looking welds.

Another problem for the diving industry is that it attracts people from all sorts of back­grounds, with those with an engineering background being only a minority. Thus, the physical skill factor, although crucially important, is not in itself sufficient to provide the industry with the next generation of competent, skilled welder-divers, divers with a minimum standard of competency in welding which needs to include safety, techniques, materials, weldability, elec­trodes, terminology, plant and equipment, weld defects and a basic understanding of metallurgy and welding standards. There is more to welding than just burning a rod.

Because most divers are self­employed and responsible for their own training/qualifications, unless they put themselves through college, there is limited opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet future industry demands or even progress and extend their knowledge base. As we know, once you are in the workplace it becomes very difficult to attend college. One course of action is through Speciality Enterprises, which has developed an 80-hour welding training programme called The WeldCraft-Pro. This course follows the European Welding Federation (EWF) guidelines (570-01) for fillet welding of plate. The actual certificate of verified achievement is issued by EAL, which is the UK's largest engineering and marine training authority, issuing more than 80% of all the UK's engineering qualifications. The actual welding qualification (coding) is for a fillet weld on plate to BSEN ISO 15618-1: 2016 and/or AWS D3.6-2010. The underwater welding course is also approed by The American Bureau of Shippinmg Maritime Academy (ABS). The programme is also recognised by IMarEST and is the only competency assessed underwater welding course that meets all of industry's current demands.
Training is currently provided through a network of approved diver training schools, in the UK, Belgium, Sweden, Greece, Norway, Soth Africa and Malaysia. The training is as compact as possible and is based on an 80­hour 10.5-day programme.

It is crucial that industry a ttracts the right calibre of individual, but equally important, industry needs to ensure the right training programmes exist to ensure and maintain the right calibre of people exist to serve it. Speciality Enterprises is doing its bit for Britain, Europe and the rest of the world to ensure these welding competencies exist.

David J. Keats is managing director of Speciality Enterprises, a UK-based company specialising in underwater welder training, consultancy and welding inspection services. He is a fully qualified international welding technologist, senior welding inspector (CSWIP), accredited Zurich surveyor, professional member ofTWl, qualified welding instructor and has been instrumental in developing the UK's only accredited qualification in wet welding, having worked in the diving/welding industry for more than 30 years. He has worked as a wet and hyperbaric welder for all the major diving contractors and has published two books on underwater welding.