30 Nov 2011

RF skill levels

In my professional life I interviewed many graduates aspiring to become RF engineers. Very few, in recent years, had what I would call "the knowledge". By this I mean a "gut instinct" for RF that does not come from an academic course, important though this aspect is.  Rather, this "jizz" comes by living and breathing RF through building RF things yourself, however simple. A great many 2:1 graduates in communications electronics knew almost nothing about RF, had never touched a soldering iron ever and were rejected. In all honesty I believe I could sense who would make a good RF engineer within 2 minutes of the interviews starting.

Today I received a request from a Spanish amateur who professed (more or less), "I`ve a problem. I know nothing about electronics and would be unable to build the SAQ converter on your website." He then offered to pay me to build and ship the converter to him. Surely, a radio amateur in ANY country should have learnt basic RF skills as part of his training in preparation for his licence? At the most basic level the understanding may not be deep, but how can a radio amateur really not know how to put together a basic circuit?

In the UK we have a growing, and very serious, issue with poorly educated science and engineering graduates who are simply not coming out of universities with the skills needed to start work in industry. One answer was the sandwich course in which young A-level students were accepted on a company training scheme that married "on the job" skills training with educational training, usually to HND or degree level. People spotted young, with real RF "jizz" (easily judged in interviews) usually went on to become the best engineers we had.


Hans PD0AC said...

Things changed, Roger. Most (not all, fortunately) of the hams I know, don't repair anything anymore, let alone build something.

Nowadays you buy a rig, cable, antenna and that's it.

Hans PD0AC

Anonymous said...

I agree with Hans People we are losing the repair skills our Grandparents had. It is now a scrap it after Two
years use or if it don't work take it to the tip landfill mentality.


Anonymous said...

You could do most repairs on your
car 30 years ago. Now you have to take it to a specialist mechanic.
Everything is getting too complex to repair any more. Surface mount components and custom parts are making repairs more difficult.
I learnt my RF skills by building a lot of projects and emitting a lot of smoke by using PNP instead of NPN transistors. Then I learnt why most of my projects would smoke and then got them to work.


Julian Moss said...

I could not agree more, Roger. But nothing will change without a complete change of attitude in the education world and in the country as a whole.

Britain is a very status conscious society and unfortunately we accord more status to people who wear suits and sit behind desks than those who make things. Which is why so many young people choose courses in things like "media studies" or aspire to become lawyers.

We have become a nation whose wealth is created by selling at an inflated profit goods made cheaply elsewhere. This is unsustainable once we run out of places where people are willing to work for less than we will. The Chinese will inherit the earth...

It's a tragedy, not just for the reasons you state, but because engineering - learning how things work, how to make stuff - is just so much more *fun*. I still remember the excitement of receiving a Meccano set for Christmas, and when I received a Philips Electronic Engineer kit.

Ricardo - CT2GQV said...

The basic ham license, at least here, (I think they are similar in other countries) doesn't focus much in the technical details just minor electric knowledge that someone with a good memory can pass easily (remembering the answsers from available exam's). Never the less that person has the chance to evolve his knowledge. What hams do for a long time is starting a learning process, be it electronics, propagation, repair, building etc. Most of the times it takes some (lot's of) time and someone with more information to help that.

Now let's hope that the ham in question let's you build this kit and the next one will be his build...
I'm an optimist! :)

73 de Ricardo, CT2GQV

LY2SS said...

I have read in some sci-fi book an idea that in the far future all the machinery will become so complex that it will take almost whole man's life to learn how to operate it. And only at the end of life he will be capable to do it.
I think we are heading to this.

73 to all!

Anonymous said...

Well i can cover myself Roger - i was burning the tips of my fingers at 14 wih a soldering iron!!

Anonymous said...

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