This was the sixth successful instructor development course conducted by Lyon, who was awarded silver course director status for his work in 2017.
Pacific Divers has been training PADI scuba instructors for five years now. For the most part the programme is attended by people coming to the Cook Islands specifically for this training.
“The value to the economy of these visitors is significant in terms of individual spend,” says Lyon, who estimates that each overseas diving student will spend anywhere between $4000 and $10,000 during what can be up to a six-month stay in the Cook Islands.
However, it is not only people from overseas who take part in the programme, adds Lyon.
Local Ben Vakatini completed a divemaster and instructor internship with Pacific Divers in 2014 and has gone on to become Pacific Divers’ director of operations.
Bermy Ariihee completed her instructor course last year while on a break from her Bachelor of Marine Science course in New Zealand and Lyon hopes she will consider a career with Pacific Divers when she is finished.
Matiu John also completed his PADI instructor training with Pacific Divers and now works on the west coast of Australia.
Pacific Divers has also trained long-time Rarotonga residents Carina Wenzel and Lincoln Mail as PADI instructors.
Each year Pacific Divers offers two scholarships for local people to take part in a year-long professional instructor training programme. The programme includes all courses up to PADI Divemaster and Open Water Scuba Instructor, as well as training and experience in dive centre operations.
“There are still many foreign people employed in the recreational dive industry, but cost of training has long been a barrier to Cook Islanders gaining qualifications,” said Lyon.
“I hope that with our scholarship scheme and other training opportunities over time we can train more locals to eventually displace the foreign labour in this sector.”
Pacific Divers will have a booth at the Maritime Expo being held at Avatiu Port on Monday, June 25, so come along and ask about how you can dive into the scuba industry.