When it comes to dive-training agencies, nearly all divers will recognize both PADI and SSI as the industry leaders, and the agencies with the largest international presence. In fact, there are many training agencies, including other larger ones like SDI/TDI, CMAS, IANTD and NAUI. In recent years, though, a number of smaller agencies have appeared, often born out of dissatisfaction with what the dive industry currently offers in terms of diver education.
One of these newer agencies is RAID, originally founded in 2007, though new ownership has put together a team of industry leaders to create new offerings in the last year. RAID’s name comes from its early incarnation as a rebreather training organization – Rebreather Association of International Divers. Since then, and under the new ownership, it has expanded to include open-circuit courses for every level diver from open-water training to rebreather. Let’s take a look at their mission statement, which I think sums up nicely what they are all about:
“Our mission is to be the benchmark brand for quality dive training globally through improved technology, training techniques, a proactive quality control system and ensuring the highest standard of dive instructors. The measure of our success is not the number of divers we train but the quality of our divers. Every diver we train is an ambassador for RAID.”
Both the mentions of technology and quality stand out in the mission statement. Something that’s always puzzled me about the dive-education industry is how technologically behind the times parts of it are, from inadequate eLearning (if it exists) to the manuals appearing as eBooks on your phone as an app. Let’s not mention the endless paper work you have to fill in. RAID offers a viable alternative.
Comprehensive online training
RAID offers over 60 courses online, with all-digital manuals and online-only paperwork, which is perfect for time-poor travelers in the digital age, as well as for the RAID dive centers and instructors as they don’t have to carry or order all this stock.
With all this talk of online courses, I should point out that students must still complete the water-based part of the course at a RAID dive center. RAID says that each center’s highly qualified and experienced instructors are committed to training people within each of their limitations, allowing them to develop and achieve confidence in their own abilities. As someone who believes a scuba course should take however long it requires for you to master each skill, it’s good to see this emphasized. Producing better divers benefits not just the individuals and the industry as a whole, but also the oceans and marine life we so enjoy.
How does RAID work?
Anxious to find out more on how RAID works for both students and dive centers or instructors, I spoke with James Rogers, the head of RAID U.K. and longtime dive-industry figure. Rogers explained that for students, the RAID process starts by affiliating with a RAID dive center. “Once done, they can log on to the RAID website, read the course material, go through the Q&A process and receive evaluations – all online, in their own time,” he says. “The dive center can monitor their progress, offer help and advice if necessary, and eventually make arrangements for in-water training once the theoretical part of the course is completed.”
RAID outlines the benefits of their system to include the following:
- Learn at your own pace, when it suits you, where it suits you
- No peer pressure from faster pupils or delay caused by slower learners
- Clear and simple information available on any device connected to the internet
- Immediate assessment of Q&A submissions
- Hard-copy printing available for people who prefer reading that way
Of course any growing diving agency must be built on a foundation of dive centers and instructors. RAID states that their system has the following advantages for dive centers:
- Eliminates the need for in-store academic training without reducing your fees
- Frees up classroom space for more profitable activities
- Saves hours of paperwork
- No need to buy physical stock, saving costs, storage and the possibility of incorrect deliveries
- New course material immediately available online – no outdated stock
- Significant savings on the cost of certification
- RAID’s unparalleled marketing plans will drive new customers to your door
The only downside I see at the moment is that only Italian and English are supported, but Rogers says that Spanish, German, French, Korean, Chinese and Arabic will soon be available, and Dutch is planned too.
You can check out everything about RAID and their courses on the RAID website.