12 May 2014

Lack of youngsters in the hobby and the growing RF engineer shortage

See  http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2014/may/where_are_the_under_25s.htm#.U3Ey1rGZiSo
for an interesting piece about the lack of young people in our hobby.

The original article appeared in Essex Ham.

See also http://youtu.be/6UFP158SJbY .

Having given talks to several East Anglian radio clubs I can agree this is a serious issue.  Most in amateur radio in the UK are in the older generation. It is right these people should be enjoying our hobby, but youth and youngsters are essential for its healthy future. We need to find new ways to bring them in and keep them interested.

Years ago, an amateur radio "ticket" was the only passport to a means of talking around the world. Today, with smart phones and the internet, talking world-wide no longer holds the same fascination for young people as it once did. To me, radio is still magic, but this is not the case for most young people.

Also note how many radio magazines there are on shop shelves compared with those about computers. We are in danger of facing a future without RF engineers in the UK. This is even more serious than the lack of youngsters in our hobby. The two are very much linked: if we want future RF engineers we need to grow young, keen, radio amateurs - the future is ours to influence! I never did understand why radio seems to be (mainly) a male interest.  Odd.


Joshua Tolley said...

I'm in my mid 30s and have been licensed (in the US, for whatever that's worth) for a year or two. I rarely do anything with the hobby at this point. The HF rigs I've found are beyond the budget I'm willing to devote, but I'm also not all that interested in continuing to hunt for equipment because webSDR sites and experience on VHF suggest all I'll find on HF is people talking about nothing, and holding the key while they say, "Uhmmm...". I don't get excited by the idea of racking up "points", whatever they are, in "contests", by keying my call sign in and having someone from Indonesia or Djibouti respond with their rote call sign.

I got my license in the first place in large part because I thought it might help me experiment with building my own equipment, using new protocols, or communicating on unusual frequencies -- much like you often do with THz waves and earth antennas, though I don't have anything like your experience or understanding. I'm sorry your current condition makes that sort of work so much more difficult. Where I don't comprehend the desire to DX simply by exchanging call signs, I certainly see the allure of low-power transmission that goes a long way, or developing new technologies. But the demands of young children and other concerns mean I haven't been able to devote any time at all to that sort of study or experimentation. Unfortunately most of the blogs I've found and hams I've met aren't interested in that sort of thing, so it's difficult getting motivated to find time.

I'm probably just complaining, and certainly don't have any grand insight to get younger folks into the hobby, so I'll quit typing here. Thanks for your blog.

Joshua Tolley said...

I apologize for the second comment. I realized too late I didn't check the "Email follow-up comments to me" box.

Roger G3XBM said...

Thanks Joshua. You raise many good points. In the UK (at least) the lack of young people coming into the hobby is a serious issue. I think we have to work far more on the "magic" of radio to get people really motivated. Just talking around the world (and contests) are "old hat" to young people today.

Steve McDonald said...

I'm not sure of the reason either but as Roger indicated, it is the "magic" along with the warm physical appearance of the "magic boxes" that hooked me at the age of 10' back in the late 50's. Today there are just so many other distractions for kids and if I had stumbled upon ham radio as a 10 year old today, I too would be hard pressed to see the magic. Back then the world was a much larger place and hearing voices from Europe (here in VE7 land) was exciting enough to keep me at the dials until the wee hours. How exciting the weeknds were as this meant I could DX until well passed midnight! And that big square backlit orange dial of my old GE tombstone radio was almost hypnotic. Yes Roger...just pure "magic"

Steve VE7SL

PE4BAS, Bas said...

Hello Roger, I think it's difficult these times to promote the "magic" of radio. Youth has not got a clue that they actuallt talk with a radio using smartphones. Strange that some of them are not interested in contests as it has a lot in common with online computer gaming. 73, Bas

Anonymous said...

It was just the fact that you could build somehing from a hand full of components and go into a kind of different world, rather than just communication.