- High quality work in (examples): creations, products, services, presentations, consultancy, primary/other research, administrative, marketing, photography or other work endeavours.
- A high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities while carrying out one's profession (as an employee, self-employed person, career, enterprise, business, company, or partnership/associate/colleague, etc.). The professional owes a higher duty to a client, often a privilege of confidentiality, as well as a duty not to abandon a genuine client just because he or she may not be able to pay or remunerate the professional. Often the professional is required to put the interest of the client ahead of his own interests.
- Reasonable work morale and motivation. Having interest and desire to do a job well as holding positive attitude towards the profession are important elements in attaining a high level of professionalism.
The reason why I was looking up the definition of the word was because of yet another conversation that I had with some friends about the cost of scuba diving. They were complaining about the class that they took: large student to instructor ratio, the quality of the instruction, that the instructor that just didn't seem interested or even patient, and it was generally.. in their words, "not professional".
Going back to the term "professional". Some of the key words that caught my eye were "high quality", "high standards" and "desire to do a job well". Well, sounds like lofty ideals and high expectations, but when your life is at stake, would you expect anything less of your instructor? The question is, how much would you pay for a well delivered dive education?
Incidentally, my friends' basis of choosing the dive operator to learn with, was price. This was despite the long explanation I gave them about the cost structure of a dive course and well, this spiel that I'm about to launch into.
How many of us complain that we are overworked and underpaid, that we are not fairly paid for the amount of work we put in? Now think of the number of hours that you went through with during your dive course, throw in the hours spent in the classroom and pool, and the hours spent away from home over the weekend for the open water dives. Add the hours spent preparing for the classes and the trips, the time and effort spent taking care of the logistics that you don't see to ensure that you have a trip with minimal hiccups. That's how many hours that the instructor has to work for. While we may disagree on the exact number of hours that the instructor puts in for each class, but I'm sure we can agree that it's more than 2 days' worth of work, and yet, almost all instructors are paid much less than a day's wage for their fee, if they are even paid at all. So, would you do a job that pays you for less than the effort you put into, and even if you did, be motivated enough to do an excellent job in the long run?
If you are running a business, you would know that working out a price is never easy. Well, it's easy enough in that as long as you are able to cover your expenses and you add the margin for your profit, you'll be fine, and the customers will come. Wrong. You see, it's a free market and unless you have a unique product where the consumers who want your product and have no one to buy from but you, you'll face stiff competition. And even if your unique product sells well, you can rest assured that a whole line of competitors would pop up and start selling the same product (though not necessarily of better quality) but at a cheaper price. To the non-discerning consumer, everyone is selling the same product and their decision to buy is based on pricing. Businesses that do not have the expertise to differentiate themselves from their competitors will simply engage in a price war, standing out by offering the lowest price on the market, and it's matter of time before some of the competitors bleed financially till they can't sustain and the business folds. It's about attrition and who can survive bleeding the longest.
Bleeding to death is a long process, and the process starts when businesses start to realise that they are barely able to cover their costs. They start to cut cost and one of the measure is to delay or even not paying their instructors. The only way instructors can earn a bit of money is by teaching a larger class, hence the high instructor to student ratio. It's a highly stressful situation where the instructor has so many students to keep track of, and there may be a number of students in each class that are struggling. The only way to get through so many students is to lower the standard of teaching and expectations, and rush through the classes. Students might get frustrated because they feel that they haven't been taught well.
It's no surprise that each year, despite the large number of students who sign up for open water classes, there is a high attrition of not only students and instructors, but also dive operators. Unfortunately, this stems from the human nature of seeking out a bargain, and without consumers knowing or trying to understand what goes into dive education, I'm afraid that this trend will continue: operators whose selling point is to undercut the market, consumers who let their wallet do the deciding, overwhelmed instructors who get frustrated.. it all leads to a less than satisfactory dive education and a dive industry with a poor image.
So what's the solution? If I had the answer, I would have readers paying me for my words on this blog, and I'd be on the speaking circuit as a sales and marketing guru. However, I do like the structure that Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) has. GUE is know for its high quality and stringent training, conducted by excellent instructors. One reason why GUE courses cost much more is because of a part of the price goes towards the instructor's fees. Instructors get a fixed amount of fee per student, and it is very reasonable considering the very high standards set by GUE. I'm not saying that GUE doesn't have any unhappy students, but I dare say that it's proportionally lower.
If scuba diving is something that you'd really like to get into, then do yourself a favour and do a thorough research and speak to friends about their experiences, speak to the dive operator to get a sense of your comfort level with them. Don't just choose the cheapest operator that comes along and end up hating diving and never doing it again. So rather than saving a hundred dollars by choosing the cheapest operator, you end up losing a couple of hundred dollars instead. It's just plain "penny wise, pound foolish". Here's an old article that I featured about finding an excellent scuba class, and I hope that it'll help you.
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