Welding grad underg commercial diving training

MAY 8, 2024

Caleb Savitch happily goes where many welders don't. For him, welding and water are a good mix.

After graduating from IVCC’s welding program in December 2023, Savitch headed to the School Ocean Corp. commercial diving school in Houston, Tx., where he’s training in underwater welding. He’ll spend 7.5 months there, diving almost daily and completing classroom and practical instruction.

He’d always loved tinkering with the family cars, and discovered welding and mechanics classes in high school satisfied his need to work with his hands. Ironworking and pipefitting seemed a good bet for his skills, until recruitment materials from diving schools began arriving. He’d enjoyed scuba diving but hadn’t realized until then there was a way to combine two of his interests.

“As a commercial diver, you can do all kinds of diving, working offshore on oil rigs and pipelines. Inland, you name it, divers are doing it,” from ship and boat maintenance and repair to bridge inspections to sewer repairs and more, he said.

His career move had whole-hearted support from IVCC Welding Program Coordinator Theresa Molln. “He is a very good welder in almost any process and position. That is why I encouraged him to go after this when he mentioned it to me,” she said.

He spent the first several weeks of training in a classroom learning “a lot of formulas” that govern diving, decompression risks and safety practices.

Schoolwork calls for precision. A mistake off paper, a misjudgment or omitting a step, can be fatal in action. “We get our fair share of horror stories from the instructors,” he said. Still, he says he feels safer diving with ample breathing equipment and a crew on the surface monitoring and ready to help divers below – two factors that scuba diving doesn’t offer.

He mastered diver-rescue drills. "I was paired with a 6-foot 4-inch, 260-pounder and had to lift him out of the water with 80 pounds of gear,” Savitch recalled with a chuckle. “I was huffing and puffing so hard!” but notched a successful “rescue.”

His eight-person crew became the first class to finish a job of assembling pipe from an oil rig to ocean floor and back up to the rig in one day, he says proudly.

Graduation will launch him into an apprenticeship of sorts as a tender. “That job gets divers ready and takes care of them. If you’re a good tender, a good rigger, you might break out to be a diver in a year or year and a half.”

Envisioning his future, he doubts that offshore diving will be the life he chooses. Being confined to an offshore rig for months “is a single man's job.” Instead, he hopes to bring girlfriend Jayden Jones south to join him.

There’s plenty of opportunity inland, and he’s optimistic about his options. “This school has a 90-plus percent placement rating, and most graduates start a job within a week after graduating.” He hopes to make it home briefly in the space between school and work.

As a high school athlete, Savitch tackled football, track, wrestling, golf and was a state bound pole vaulter twice. He hoped to continue athletics in an Iowa university until shoulder surgeries soured him on playing sports. When his parents encouraged him to continue his education and get a degree, he looked to IVCC.

“I’d heard nothing but good things about the IVCC welding program. The instructors are all amazing. Theresa (Molln) is my role model. My first semester, she let me complete my last eight-week course in four weeks because I had to leave early for shoulder surgery and I wouldn’t have physically been able to finish.”

Student and instructor devoted extra time to complete the accelerated course, and Savitch was determined to do it. “I take pride in what I’m learning, especially if it's something I’m passionate about. I had to see it through,” he said.

The Spring Valley resident kept active in wrestling and pole vaulting as a coach. “I come from a family of teachers, and explaining how to do sports comes naturally to me. I’m able to explain well, and I enjoy it.”