Now let’s not be mistaken here:
I support the introduction of a Foundation license to encourage the growth of Amateur Radio in Canada….but…(read on)…
The condition of our hobby is so moribund that anything we do will have to be an improvement thanks in no small measure to how badly our current and previous national organizations have not served us or the needs of Amateur Radio in Canada.
So let’s go ahead with a Foundation license even though almost half of 2200 Canadian hams who filled out a RAC survey said that an entry-level license like the Foundation license would result in a “dumbing down” of the hobby with many saying they fear it would create a “CB-like” effect.
Let’s face it. Most of those who filled out the RAC survey thought a Foundation License would be detrimental to the hobby.
Well when it comes to dumbing down you can’t get much dumber than some of the guys currently transmitting on the high end of either 80 or 20 meters these days. So, no fear friends, we’re already there and a Foundation license isn’t likely to create much of change for the better or for the worse.
But here’s the rub: A Foundation License isn’t a magic wand.
The current licence exam is so watered down from what it used to be that even my wife, who has absolutely no interest in Amateur Radio passed her Basic with the Morse Code qualification with ease (and with almost no coaching from me as she took the excellent course offered by the Oakville ARC). Marion is active on the club’s UHF repeater and enjoys her conversations with the OM and her fellow club members.
One person who only sporadically attended the classes and had no technical knowledge of radio managed to guess his way to getting his license when he took the examination on a whim.
The great fear that the unskilled, uncouth and sometimes unwashed hordes from CB (GRS as it was known in Canada) will invade the airways shouting Breaker Breaker Good Buddy haven’t materialized (although the unwashed do show up to flea markets in the spring) and you’ll occasionally hear someone talk about using their antenna on the “flat side” when they refer to horizontal polarization which immediately means (a) they came from the ranks of CB and (b) they have zero technical education in radio communications).
So my point is next to including licenses in boxes of cereal, it’s already pretty easy to get your Amateur Radio ticket in Canada.
So what will a Foundation license actually do?
Why absolutely nothing? Because without a solid mentoring program in place to help train and welcome newcomers to Amateur Radio in Canada, the Foundation license concept is going to be met with massive indifference by young people and newcomers to our hobby.
Just about everyone agrees that in order to encourage young people to join our ranks more hams and ham radio clubs must get involved and volunteer as “Elmers”. Almost everyone said that clubs must undertake to work with teachers in schools and with Cub, Scout, Girl Guider and 4-H Club leaders to get young people interested in Ham Radio.
A majority said that a “high level” of mentoring would be needed to make the Foundation License workable. And roughly the same majority said they’d be willing to invest their personal time in one-on-one mentoring of entry-level trainees. Good for them!
So what we need is a mentoring program to help support and train mentors.
(This mentoring program concept is something that Toastmasters International has for years promoted at the club level. My club, First Oakville Toastmasters, which is one of the oldest, largest and most successful clubs in the world-wide Toastmaster organization has an active and successful mentoring program to help newcomers more fully integrate into our comprehensive educational program of public speaking and leadership. I have been a member of Toastmasters for almost 20 years now and I have been honoured to mentor scores of new members over the years.)
So what we don’t need is a Foundation License if that’s all we do.
A Foundation License will do Amateur Radio in Canada absolutely no good whatsoever unless we introduce a vigorous and effective mentoring program that includes training for the mentors and a plan of action leading not only to an Amateur Radio ticket for the mentee but ongoing recognition and training for the mentor.
So, if we decide to introduce a mentoring program who is going to create it?
The obvious answer is Radio Amateurs of Canada but you know what I think of RAC (A truly wonderful concept driven into irrelevancy and counter-productive when it comes to our hobby…and that’s me on a nice day.)
Can’t see that happening as RAC can’t grow a membership list and keep volunteers happy let alone actually create a mentoring program.
Look if what they’re doing to the ARES organization in Canada by introducing a quasi-military old-fashion style of top-down command-and-control leadership is any indication the mentoring program for the Foundation License doesn’t stand a chance.
We’ll have more to say about this survey and the Foundation License in future posts.