DEMA held a seminar this week on how to attract young diving professionals to the industry. Hosted by DeeperBlue.com founder Stephen Whelan, the panel of young diving professionals included Luke Inman, Amanda Cotton, Cristina Zenato, Shane Taylor, and Jim Standing.
The audience of more than 100 dive industry professionals were quick to start firing questions and commentary at the panel, leaving no question as to how concerned these pros are about the issue of developing and keeping young professionals in the industry.
The common theme was expressed by one audience member who pointed out the lack of financial support and pay for divers who are trying to break into the business side of the sport. Unlike other sports, SCUBA diving is one of the only ones where the apprenticeship track to becoming an Instructor rarely provides a realistic paycheck. Most of the anecdotal comments agreed that many Dive Masters and Assistant Instructors typically receive little, if any pay.
The panel was unanimous in their agreement that there is a real need to recognize the competency and abilities of the younger divers they are mentoring. The consensus was that giving them greater responsibility and seeking their opinions and input was one way to engage these Millennials and provide them stakeholder status.
In addition to pay disparity and the need for financial incentive, many speakers talked on developing mentorship programs within their operations, with increased front-office exposure and levels of responsibility. There was much talk regarding how the SCUBA industry has failed to keep up with other “extreme” or “adventure” sports like snowboarding or surfing, with no young superstars as the public face of the industry, and that we have not “branded” SCUBA” as cool and exciting.
Common themes included the need to pay young professionals what they are worth, develop mentorship and leadership programs within the industry, actively seeking young people who want to become professionals and creating a “buzz” about diving. The comparison was made to how the general public doesn’t need to be a climber to wear a North Face jacket, or be a surfer to wear a Quicksilver branded article of clothing; these other sports have marketed themselves as accessible, young, hip and cool.
While no one left the seminar thinking all the issues had been identified or addressed, the lively conversation and obvious concern among dive industry professionals seemed to indicate that the future of young professionals in our industry is a topic that will be discussed often and that changes in perception and direction are going to be needed to engage Millennials as our industry grows.