Are Recent Technicians Getting on the Air?
Our radio club (Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association) offers a 2-day Technician license class which has resulted in over 300 new Technician licenses in past years. We also offer a number of activities to help new licensees get started in ham radio. Still, we wonder how many of our newly-minted Techs have actually gotten on the air and are actively using amateur radio.
To assess that, I surveyed 258 people that went through our Technician license class from 2010 to 2017. We’ve actually had more students than that get their license but I don’t have valid email addresses for all of them. To improve the response rate, I kept the survey short at 5 questions.
The response rate was 42% which is quite good for this type of survey. I suspect there is a response bias in that active ham radio folks are probably more likely to reply to this survey. People that have lost interest are less likely to reply. That’s just my opinion; I don’t have data to support that.
Almost half of our Technician class students upgraded to General but only a few went on to Extra. Overall, I see this as a good result but I expected to see a few more Extra class licensees.
Most of the respondents have been on air recently: 60% of them have made a radio contact in the past 6 months. On the other hand, that means about 40% of not made a contact in half a year. It is disappointing to see that 13% have never made a ham radio contact.
There is quite a range on how active the respondents are with 45% making 10 or fewer contacts in 6 months.
About one half of the survey respondents are members of our radio club. Some of them are also members of other radio clubs in the area. Some of our students travel a long distance, up to 100 miles, to attend this class so it makes sense that they find a radio club near their home.
Most of the respondents reported being active on 2m/70cm FM. About 18% of them are on HF Phone. The total for all forms of HF operating (CW, digital and phone) is not shown on the chart but it is roughly 20%. While roughly half of the respondents have their General or Extra class license, only 20% are actually using the resulting HF privileges.
My broad conclusion is that our radio club should continue to provide opportunities for our members to develop their operating skills and expand their radio operating. I filtered the responses to our club members only to see if our club member responses are any different from the larger group. Basically, our members indicate they are somewhat more active than the rest of the respondents but the overall story does not change.
Obviously, this is a small slice of data relevant to our local situation. It may not apply to other parts of the country.
What do you think?
73, Bob K0NR
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Great information, Bob. I am not surprised by any of your results.
If you have read my article on eHam (http://www.eham.net/articles/40931) then you know that I am an advocate of learning more about potential hams, those who attempted to get licenses and did not, those who did but never got on the air, those who got on the air but eventually dropped out, and, of course, those who have remained more or less active over a good period of time. Only through such data can we see what might attract and keep more people as a part of our wonderful hobby.
I also did a far less formal survey than yours and came up with five primary roadblocks–real or perceived–that keep interested people from diving into and enjoying ham radio. They are, in no particular order, a fear: 1) of it being too technical or not technical enough; 2) of putting up an antenna; 3) of putting together a station; 4) of knowing what to do on the air so as not to be ridiculed, and; 5) of the jargon. I wrote a book, GET ON THE AIR…NOW! to attempt to overcome those fears.
Great work! Thanks for sharing.
My club (Mansfield-Johnson Amateur Radio Service – https://mjars.org/) delivers 3 Tech classes and 1 General class each year. I’ll suggest to the Training Committee that we also produce a survey like this. I often wonder what our little birds do with their newly acquired license. 😉
I may not be typical, compared to the ranks of new Technician license holders, but I pursued licensed status because I have wanted to get involved and on the air for a long time. I try to be active on the air every evening during local nets on 2 meters, and in between I spend a fair amount of time monitoring local repeaters and just working the equipment for familiarization and refining technique.
Prior to getting licensed, I was a shortwave listener for 4 decades. At first there was a lot of non-amateur broadcast type shortwave programming at almost any time for a person with a fairly low cost receiver to listen in on, many in far away places all over the world, but as time progressed that kind of shortwave transmissions declined to the point that now the frequencies are largely abandoned and the large government and non-government stations have been silent for some time. I didn’t have a lot to invest in “professional” amateur radio equipment and my simple receiver was basically a technological source for white noise. That is what prompted me to dig deeper into radio, and I channeled my interest in a new direction – it was either that or abandon my interest in radio.
One limiting factor that restrained me from doing this earlier was time. When I was working I simply didn’t have time for any hobby much less one as intensive as amateur radio. Another obstacle was money. That still is what keeps me from being more involved in the hobby. Now, I am at the most elementary level of amateur radio, and there is such a wealth of technologies and opportunities it is a little intimidating, but I keep studying and trying new things every day, hoping one day to understand a little bit more of how and why these things are structured and how it all works. I plan to upgrade to General after I get some experience operating on HF – I have a rig and because of other factors in life it is taking me longer than anticipated getting it up and on the air. Meanwhile, I keep checking in to nets and I recently became a Skywarn observer, so gradually I am progressing but sometimes I am frustrated by my own lack of achievement – patience is a problem for me, but I use that to keep myself working on becoming a better amateur radio operator.
I grew up in the 1940’s in a rural crossroads village in NC. Any radio in my vicinity was “magic” and mysterious. Every opportunity to listen to any radio was better than candy, especially the ‘Crosley’ AM/SW radio of my grandmother. Mysterious voices in foreign languages were like space aliens to me and still are to a extent. Now that I am 76 yrs old and have lived in 7 states and 3 foreign countries and held licenses in them all I look back on it all and remember the many people i have known and the friends i have made in all and others. The thrill was speaking with them and talking to them and making friends with them all. I cant recall making a friend on Morse, FT or JT or digital. Its the voice and the person you see and hear that makes it my favorite pastime. In short its a ‘brotherhood’ 73
Bob, Great information. I have been teaching (until about 2 years ago) Technician, General and Extra classes for about 15 years and have noticed a similar trend. I am wondering how did it look per year as well? Yes, the number in the survey is small but also might show the trend I am seeing. Our classes vary from 10 to 20 students, with a graduation rate of 90 to 100 percent of those who complete the class. While my data is anecdotal, I noticed of those who took the class 15 years ago 90% got on the air and probably about 50% are still active / semi active. Over the years the number have reversed. Now of those who get their “ticket”, maybe 10% get on the air, and 90% never do.
Don’s comments hit a lot of the reasons I have heard, directly and indirectly. The basically one is FEAR. There does seem to be a strong fear of the radio, antenna, the community. Another issue is sometimes we over sell ham radio. We speak of the world wide DX but during a demo the newbie wants to talk to Europe and doesn’t understand why not at 8pm, with a wire strung up in the meeting hall, or why their first contact can’t be with the ISS.