There’s got to be a better way to get new Hams

“To Experience, Motivate then License. Not License, Motivate then Experience”

Many people believe that Amateur radio is struggling today and that we may be losing ground in the
number of people enjoying the Hobby. This may be true, and I think it is because we are failing to adapt
to the changing mindset of our culture. This is similar in many ways to our education system which is
struggling to keep up with the ways and speeds at which the new generation want to learn. This
generation doesn’t want to take Social Studies classes to learn how to write software, teach a robot a
specific skill or put a satellite into space. They want to jump in and participate, learning as they go. “Cut
to the chase. Let me Experience what I am interested in. Not study it from afar.”

When someone wants to play soccer, we don’t hand them a book and tell them they must study it first.
That they need to learn the details of every rule, learn the proper technique for kicking a ball, study the
aerodynamics of a soccer ball in flight and how to manipulate that to create the proper spin.

They would just say “no thanks” and move onto something else. You let them play and learn in the process. As they get more excited about the game, they want to know how to arc the ball into the goal and how to do those trick shots. That’s when you find them reading, studying, watching videos and practicing their skills. It is the opposite of how education was originally designed. In the old way you had to cover all aspects of the topic first with extensive reading, lectures and studying. Then at the very end, you were actually allowed to participate. That doesn’t work anymore. We live in a fast-paced world of information
at our finger tips and instant gratification. We need to get radios into these people’s hands. Get them to experience the vast areas of this hobby and excite their minds at the possibilities and enjoyment that
can be had. This is what we must do for Amateur Radio.

Along those lines, I would propose the Amateur Radio Apprentice Program.

The Amateur Radio Apprentice Program would be designed to get new, interested people to experience the joys of the hobby with a minimum barrier to entry. Get them hands on experience with all areas of the hobby so that we can get them excited and motivated to explore, study and practice their amateur radio skills.

To Experience, Motivate then License. Not License, Motivate then Experience.

Program details:

  • Individuals wishing to participate would find a mentor “Elmer” via local clubs, testing sessions, friends and family or the ARRL.
  • This Elmer would sign on to mentor this individual.
  • The individual and mentor would attend a License Testing Session where they would fill out a form with the same information as if there were going to test.
    • Along with the standard information, the applicant would check a box that they want an Apprentice license.
    • There would also be a form that spelled out specifically how they could operate and they would have to sign off and acknowledge the rules and restrictions.
      • Bands available, only under direct supervision, logging requirements, etc.
    • The Elmer would then fill in their information including call sign and sign off that they will mentor this individual.
    • The VE’s in attendance would verify the information and take a $5 registration fee.
    • When the applicant is ready to sit for their Technicians test, they can bring back their copy of the form and get $5 off the normal $15 testing fee.
    • The Apprentice application would be submitted with the other normal testing materials for processing.
  • The FCC would issue a call sign good for 12 months.
    • If the individual passes their Tech Exam within that 12 month period, they would be allowed to keep their call sign.
    • If the individual did not pass their Tech exam in that 12 months, they would loose their call sign and not be allowed to apply for the Apprentice program for another 12 months.
    • If the individual did not pass their Tech in that first 12 months, they could still test for their license at any time.
  • Once the call sign is issued the Apprentice would be allowed to operate on the same bands and modes of operation as outlined by the Technicians License while under the direct supervision of their Elmer.
  • The Apprentice would be required to keep a log of all contacts.
  • The Elmer would have to sign off on each days call log with their name, call sign and signature.
  • These logs would need to be available for review by the FCC if requested.
  • A PDF version of the call log sheet could be made available online and pre-printed call log books could be purchased form the ARRL or other publishers.

This is just a rough idea, but you get the picture. This would allow an interested individual to participate
in the hobby and build up the interest and motivation that would push them to get a full license. They
wouldn’t have to buy a radio, they have an Elmer that can let them use theirs as they are learning.
Under supervision they could learn how to operate the radio, the standard procedures for making
contacts, how repeaters work, how to program a radio, exposure to and use of digital voice modes like
DMR and D-Star, how to log contacts, how antennas work, how to pick the right antenna for the radio,
installation and on and on. I think this would also get them exposed to HF as they spend more time with
their Elmer and other Hams, as they want to learn more and more. Which would lead to people sitting
for their Tech and General at the same time or getting their General within months of their Tech. Right
now, most of your exposure to an Elmer is AFTER you get your license, if at all. Right now, you get a
license, have no idea what you are doing and only have a small idea of everything this hobby has to
offer. In a way, this is like the Practical Assessment that is required in the UK. This program would be a
new way for someone to get their Tech License. Individuals could still study on their own and test as
they do now.

A few months ago, I helped 4 individuals in my town get their Tech license. We have been meeting a
couple of times a month just to use the radios, answer questions, play with DMR/D-Star and get them
exposed to HF. At the last get together I had two of them tell me they had been going back and reading
through sections of the study guide because now it made more sense! With the Apprentice Program
they could study while operating, learn by doing and asking relevant questions. When they get their full
license, they would be better Hams, understand what they are doing, make fewer mistakes and be
motivated to go farther.

This idea would take some extra commitment on the part of Clubs and Elmers but isn’t that all we talk about now at our meetings? How we need to find new people and interact more with the new Techs to get them active in the hobby?

The way we go about this now is backwards and doesn’t work for the current generations. We need to let them participate so they are motivated to get licensed.

“To Experience, Motivate then License. Not License, Motivate then Experience”

It’s like a gateway drug. “Come on, the first QSO is free!”

Your thoughts?

73, JohnnyF, WJ0NF, Gateway, CO

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2 Responses

  1. Jim Jarvis says:

    This sounds like a great idea!

  2. JohnnyF-WJ0NF says:

    Hi Jim. Thanks for the vote. There are probably negatives I have not thought about but it at least starts a conversation. Maybe something positive could come out of it.
    73, John, WJ0NF

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