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Ideas for amateur radio recruitment requested

Discussion in 'Discussions, Opinions & Editorials' started by N0NB, Dec 7, 2012.

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  1. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    This is a fabulous time to be involved in amateur radio! The variety of modes and activities has never been greater nor has the opportunity to enjoy the hobby ever been more accessible. That said, it seems that recruitment is as difficult as ever, at least for me (I am NOT a salesman by any stretch). Perhaps what I am most concerned about is "over selling" amateur radio despite what I wrote above, which I firmly believe to be true.

    I would like to see a bit of brainstorming and also solid ideas for exposing potential operators to amateur radio. I think the most opportunity exists with roughly the age 35+ age group as those folk are likely soon to be empty nesters with disposable income and some time to do things before grandkids come along. Short of a TV advertising blitz, how do we reach that group most effectively? I ask this as in this locality there is no longer any sort of electronics store for the potential hobbyist to hang out and encounter other like-minded individuals. I suppose that there are still community bulletin boards and such. So far I have avoided the Facebook monster but it seems like a lot of local information (gossip?) is now posted there.

    Once interested, how to set the hook? Telling prospects to buy a fancy book seems like an instant turn-off these days, so something home-brewed for instructional material and Web references might better serve the purpose. Perhaps even some simple kit building would give prospects a sense of accomplishment and a desire to build more (I know it did for me). If more than a couple of people were interested, our club would conduct informal classes where these activities could take place. It seems few are wired for self study, even though I'm one of the few that seems to have an aptitude for it, so some sort of class seems a necessity. And I wish to stay away from emcomm as being a primary focus of recruitment, but not unmentioned.

    Most importantly, feel free to share your success stories,
  2. KF7ORO

    KF7ORO Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'd say find groups who could use Ham Radio in other hobbies they already have. I got into it mainly because I like 4-wheeling / exploring in the desert. Most off-roaders use CBs for trail comms. A few people I know started using Ham Radios which are obviously a couple orders of magnitude more effective. After seeing that, lots of off-roaders I know got their tech licenses and are now at least active on 2m. A few (like me) even took up Ham Radio as a hobby outside of off-roading. Whenever I go out with a group that uses CBs, I demo the benefits of my 2m/70cm rig over their CB. Calling a repeater in town 50 miles away never fails to amaze them and occasionally convinces someone to go get their ticket.

    There's been lots of talk about reaching out to the "builder" community. I'm sure there are plenty of other groups out there too.
  3. NN4RH

    NN4RH Subscriber QRZ Page

    We've already got 700,000+ hams, probably 600,000 of which are not active either because they're dead, or lost interest, or just were never interested in the first place but were "recruited". Why do we need more hams like that?

    Anyone who develops an interest in radio communications can find any and all information they want already on the internet and they will make of it whatever is valuable to them. They don't need to be spoon fed or force fed, or pigeonholed into doing the "traditional" ham thing.

    Retention, not recruitment.
  4. WA3VJB

    WA3VJB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree with the idea of avoiding "the traditional ham thing" like the plague (emphasis added). As Time magazine noted a few years ago, it's one of those "faintly embarrassing hobbies" like stamp collecting, at least as presented by national organizations and most local clubs who obtain recruitment materials from such groups.

    Demographic: YES go older, not younger. Money and time available, and the age group has an awareness of "radio" much greater than kids.

    Recruitment: Go for what best personifies radio. The hiking and offroaders using FM / repeaters is a strong pull, so is vintage radio and AM because of the good sound quality, relaxed storytelling style of operating, and good technical grasp to help newcomers into our part of the hobby.
  5. G4OTU

    G4OTU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think you're on a hiding to nothing.

    If things continue as they are....never mind the licence figures (which I think are very misleading both here and in the USA) with declining levels of activity then in 20 or so years the active radio ham is going to become an endangered species

    Notice I said "the active radio ham"... a completely different animal to the "Ham radio licence holder".

    As things stand now, the level of activity on HF is, at a guess , about 30% what it was when I was first licenced.
    Now the only time the bands are even slightly crowded are on major contest weekends.
  6. KA3JLW

    KA3JLW Ham Member QRZ Page


    1. Appeal with simplicity, the magic that can happen with a simple $200 rig with a dipole. Because while more esoteric stuff is really exciting, the learning/effort curve is prohibitive. We need to focus on pushing the 'gateway drugs'
    2. Focus on HF. Let emcomm be the appeal to more 2m ops and homebrewers come in on whatever they focus on.
    3. Don't ever compare ham radio with other things. It isn't better or worse than the internet or cell phones. It is different.
    4. Make more "open" stations available to people! It is hard to be excited about ham radio when you're having difficulty getting on the air.
      1. I believe the vast increase in restrictive (HOAs, ordinances) situations have significantly limited how an average person can get even a simple operation going. Yes, we know that an attic dipole or rain gutter can work, but if you're new, those can stymie successas the new person may not have the expertise to make them viable. So make simple HF stations available where new folks can come in and operate - to learn things so they can then make their rain gutter work.
      2. Such stations could foster the 'elmer' process, where what a new ham needs is inspiration, not someone to do it for them. Meeting in person is often the best way to spark this.
      3. Local clubs and the ARRL could sponsor such stations with some basic standards: like an operating sign up website, some basics about the station operation (like saying that each will have a single-sheet quick guide to turning on the radio and making an HF contact), some basic filtering for access (like liability forms, insurance) and maybe standard key locks on such stations.
      4. Most of all, such stations will ideally provide ideas for improvement for the home station, whet the appetite, allow for on-air practice or tests, foster elmering...all the things that make the hobby enjoyable and successful in the long run.

    Example: My kids like science museums. Over the last year, I've been to 3 science museums that had ham radio stations sitting there. They were clearly operable and used at times but were unmanned/closed when we were there. I don't expect the station owners to simply let anyone in unescorted. But what if I could have gone online and gotten a key code that would allow me access to operate for an hour or so? Like a zip car for ham radio?? I'd need to be screened somehow...they can't just let everyone in...I get that. But there's not much reason that a licensed operator with screening, a key code and a simple instruction sheet couldn't come in and operate some - maybe for a small upkeep fee that benefits the club, and maybe the station becomes the way the club attracts new members (who might get free or priority access).

    More accessibility, more folks on the air, more people gathering in a club setting to operate...that's what will help ham radio in the long run.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  7. KA3JLW

    KA3JLW Ham Member QRZ Page

    One other key IMHO: It seems that we focus on getting a new person a license, then "go forth and multiply". We need to find ways to get people to want to 'do' radio, then find on their own that a license is a means to their end goal.

    This goes back up to my "zip operating stations" above, where they can find accessible places play radio but ONLY with a control op present. If they like it, they'll want to branch out on their own and will need a license to do that.

    I see classrooms full of kids getting their licenses...and I don't begrudge the efforts as they are far more than I have done. But I wonder what those kids' motivations are - is it likely that many are passing because that's the only goal? And they want to impress their teachers? That's what school is about generally anyway. That kind of approach inflates our license numbers but doesn't seem to add many active operators. Exceptions abound, I get that. But generally...
  8. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Probably have to sell them on the geek appeal aspect and less emphasis placed on it's traditional roots.

    Oh yeah, and the fact it connects to a computer or not probably matters a great deal these days too. :)

    So is there an app for that?
  9. AA7EJ

    AA7EJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Majority of my professional life was centered on fixing things - consequently I always look for negative before I can see positive.

    The whole idea that this hobby needs to be advertized as the proverbial carrot in front of the horse's nose is faulty to start with.
    And one of the biggest turn-offs in few club meetings I had the misfortune to attend were attempts to have dog and pony show of anything even remotely related to amateur radio.
    Boring one way presentations “accentuated” with goofy and generally not working on first try PowerPoint slides.

    The best meeting so far – hands on, including soldering iron, build you own J pole antenna and test it with professional test equipment.
    If you opt for “club approach” you have to have prospective victims full participation from get go. And since this is multifaceted hobby the risk of getting little or no participation depends on popularity of the subject.
    And since majority, from where I am standing, of ham clubs are social clubs, picking a suitable subject is a difficult task.

    Somewhat popular, overused, but better than nothing, are club members interests surveys.

    In my book, any new face which shows up in club meet should have a volunteer elmer ( or two ) immediately “assigned” by club membership or leadership.

    I have checked at least one club web site which advertize “elmers” - guess how many are there!

    Good luck to you.

    If it helps your morale , I am pretty much in same boat, but enjoying flying solo for now.
    73 Vaclav
  10. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    "For today's club project, I am going to show you how to reconfigure an ordinary wifi router into a useful repeater using DD-WRT software so you can operate your rigs detachable control head in a wireless configuration, to operate your radio equipment anywhere outside the shack."

    Yup, the Sheldon Cooper types of today, would probably really like something that..
  11. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'd do whatever it takes to get Penny.:eek:
  12. WB7OXP

    WB7OXP Ham Member QRZ Page

    since sheldon was mentioned, i am totally surprised that those guys aren't hams on the show. it would have made some great scenes for howard on the iss. if herman munster and grandpa could "play radio", certainly sheldon, leonard, howard and raj can. as for penny, that might be a private class.........

    qsl that good buddy and bazinga to you and yours

    this would be a great opportunity to show ham radio in a good lite, and show it solving interesting problems. so penny, if you're reading this, i will be glad to help you get a license........because an amateur extra is way cooler then a cal tech physics phd or mit engineering degree

    since they are in southern cal, would they listen to 435?
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  13. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yup, in one episode they used a laser to bounce a signal off the moon, so technically speaking they are into EME communications. :)
  14. N0AZZ

    N0AZZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    It seem like the main draw is one that I refuse to add into the Ecomm one give them flashing yellow lights, yellow hard hats with a logo on it and a HT. Then tell them how great the Red Cross is and the almighty "HOMELAND SECURITY" set them up for classes for all the BS needed for those then go help with bicycle races.

    Or the one where a hospital will pay it's employees to take the exams and study time to get a license so a radio can be installed in the hospital, for more federal (OUR) money inverted in those ++.

    I try every time one of the new people pass there exams at testing with hand outs to encourage them on how to enjoy the hobby.
  15. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    +10 - I agree with all of these thoughts and I will add one more. It is even MORE important that we stop the 'infant mortality' among newly minted hams. It is very difficult these days for us to recruit even those who have a real interest. There are just too many competing things out there, starting with the Internet. People would rather spend dollars on a whizbang computer than a radio. Getting on the air is seen as a much harder thing to do these days, right or wrong. People of all ages are moving into more multifamily dwellings where ham radio is as welcome as hemorrhoids. It's a much more serious detractor than anybody wants to accept.

    Club stations are a real answer. I think online remotely operated stations that can be shared over the Internet are another. That would allow you to set up your shared radio in a building someplace with limited access - the real norm today. You do lose the camaraderie of hanging around the club station, but 24 X 7 availability is very desirable. If you hear somebody talking about setting up a repeater, suggest that they do this instead! The expense and effort ought to be similar, or perhaps better for the HF station.

    The other factor is keeping the newbies engaged, and preventing them from getting discouraged. I really think that our current license structure does not serve us well at all. We need to bring the focus of ham radio back to HF, where it always belonged.
  16. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Those dead hams have no excuse to be inactive.
  17. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    That's not my goal with this thread, just to clarify. I'm not looking to coax anyone to get a license or make any promises the service won't live up to. I am looking for ideas to put ourselves out there so that those who have an interest in radio can join us. Nothing more. My choice of the word "recruitment" was obviously not a good choice around here. ;)

    I am from the ranks of the self-motivated so part of me is comfortable sitting back with the "build it and they will come" attitude while another part of me thinks that osmosis isn't providing like-minded individuals someone to ask questions of. Perhaps an avenue is seeing if there is any sort of "maker" group around. I've not heard of any but one could exist.
  18. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    At the risk of stating the obvious, people aren't going to like ham radio until they like hams. Interpret that as you will.
  19. M6RIK

    M6RIK Ham Member QRZ Page

    In the UK two main issues are making recruitment difficult. If these were to be addressed i believe there would be an increase in interest in the hobby.

    The first is the licence. The test itself is fine but finding a place to take it is often very difficult. It's a postcode lottery and if your local clubs are not unwilling or unable to let new people take their tests then there will be no newcomers. My solution to this problem would be to reformat the test into a computerised version, keep it multiple choice and in the same spirit as it is now. There is a government department which runs testing centres throughout the UK. These centres are primarily used for people to take driving theory tests. Efforts should be made to use these centres as venues for radio licence tests. Booking could be done online at any time by anyone. At the centre you would be either given a note to say that you hadn't passed or a certificate to say that you have. The test centre could automatically inform ofcom and a call sign could be applied for in the same way as it is now.

    The second issue is the cost of getting started in the hobby. If a simple, no frills, low power, ssb only, HF radio could be sold brand new for £100 or less people would not be put off by the high price of new gear or the reliability issues of used equipment.
  20. NM9K

    NM9K Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think the whole hobby would be a lot more interesting if the 2M/440 repeaters had more action.

    The fact that we have such an extensive network of fine equipment that goes unused is almost shocking to me.
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