Recently the RSGB have issued a consultation (http://rsgb.org/main/clubs-training/tutor-resources-2/syllabus/) regarding the exam syllabus changes – it would appear that they will be making the Foundation more complicated and the same for the Intermediate so that the jump from Intermediate to Full isn’t as far – that’s my understanding anyway…
Essex Ham digested the information for the Foundation and produced an excellent write up clearly showing the changes within the Foundation syllabus and also a very nice little survey of their own all of which can be found here http://www.essexham.co.uk/news/rsgb-foundation-syllabus-review.html
After only 16 months of being a ham myself I’m probably not very qualified to comment on this, however seeing it from a different perspective may be whats needed? Locally what I find quite disappointing is the lack of new people and thus how quiet local ham radio is. Now that could be to do with how proactive we are here in Guernsey promoting the hobby or it could be just general lack of interest… probably a bit of both if we were being honest and probably not dissimilar to any other region (some exceptions obviously) that have a restricted population of 63,000 as we do in Guernsey (IOTA EU-114)… I would love to see more people of any age and any level – The Essex Ham write up certainly makes it very obvious what the RSGB want to do and I would have to agree with a good few of the comments below the Essex Ham write-up indicating that its not the right way forward.
Personally I think that the following type of structure would encourage many more to find the hobby and then with the higher numbers being introduced come higher Intermediate & Full licence holders too.
I think that the Foundation should limit the frequencies and also power – 12w max (would put it in line with CB) and may be a couple of HF frequencies and VHF/UHF (2m & 70cm) only – however to get this licence the exam should be operating orientated, practical and safety conscious with some basic technical skills – This would hopefully encourage the younger generation / newcomers on to the airwaves – they would learn good practice and start their journey… If it is too hard to begin with I believe it will have the opposite effect.
Then hopefully, once bitten by the bug, they would move to Intermediate, more in depth, practical skills for soldering, construction etc… more comprehension of electronics and RF, passing this exam would open up the power to 100w but still with limited frequencies, same as Foundation but with the addition of may be an additional HF frequency or two and also the GHz bands? – I say 100w because most radios cap themselves at 100w and a lot of contests use 100w as a low power rule..
Now the jump to Full – all the bands, all the power – much more complex lessons to learn than the Intermediate but because the Intermediate is still limited on frequencies it should encourage those to move on for full access to all frequencies – I’d also like to see those that are interested in QRO be able to use 1 or 2kw. The Full licence gives much more understanding of RF and its problems/dangers so with that skill should come more power – 400w is not a lot when you consider what other countries have access to and it’s obvious that many hams use more than this amount anyway – I think the RSGB and Ofcom would be fooling themselves if they thought that all UK hams stuck to their 10w / 50w / 400w if they had access to more. I can honestly say I never did use more than 50w as a 2U0 (2E0) and have never more than 130/140 as an MU0 (M0)
So basically bring people in to the hobby on an easier exam, hook them on the line and slowly reel them in – the more the merrier, I believe it would liven up the VHF & UHF bands too with more use of the repeaters etc… Making the step from Foundation to Intermediate would become larger BUT with that step brings more privileges, then the same from Intermediate to Full. The more that actually experience the use of radio firsthand the more are likely to filter up the exam structure/chain – If they can experience all the bands with 99% of the privileges without the knowledge then what reason would they need to move further? I was happy with my 2U0 (2E0) as it gave me all the bands, the only limitation really was 50w – no huge hardship especially when I found I could work VK with my 20m dipole and 50w, the only reason for the MU0 (M0) was to prove something to myself before I was 50 🙂
I hear all too often that “it was harder in my day”, sure it was, you had to do what was the equivalent of the Full licence from the start before ANY access to the bands and even then it was limited (how lively was V/UHF back in the day?) – you also didn’t have the technology there is today either so encouraging the younger generation with a technical leaning was much easier – now-a-days there is so much for them to occupy their technical minds with, why would they want to play radio when they can phone, Skype / blog / vlog / program computers etc to do almost anything they want – we need to show them that radio is much more than CB / walkie talkies etc… They will be the ones in the future innovating and creating new ways of using the spectrum, the fewer that come and play radio the less likely the hobby will progress.
When becoming a ham part of the journey is to encourage would be hams to become new hams (well I believe it is) and also if you can impart wisdom of any kind, to do so! Making an exam harder isn’t going to achieve that – make sure that as the privileges increase that the knowledge required to understand RF etc is learnt too, this unfortunately means the exams get harder too, but that’s life eh!
So, if it’s harder to recruit new hams let’s not stop the very start of the journey by making it too hard, especially for those that may well just need a little extra help – be it because of their age or because they find the technicalities a little daunting, confusing or tough to understand – to me it’s all about the learning and progression – I’m loving what I’m doing and how I’m going about it, on a shoestring – making do with stuff that’s old, broken (and then I’ve fixed), making my own wire antennas, balun’s, chokes etc…. Being patient is a new trait for me (I’m not a very patient person) and as money is tight it’s just something that has to be done… however, when I win the lottery….. 😉