Des DeCean is the former Director of Technology for the Austereo radio network.
About a year ago I wrote an article for radioinfo entitled “The Elephant in the room is a Time Bomb!” In summary the article was triggered by an almost nation-wide shutdown of triple j due to a failure to update software in critical routers.
The message in my article was that technology is controlling more aspects of the broadcast every day, yet our technical staff and skill levels are being depleted, putting stations at a higher risk of failure such as that which happened with triple j.
Last year I attended a lunch with several retired fellow Broadcast Engineers here in Adelaide. As we chatted away about all things radio two things occurred to me. There was a wealth of knowledge sitting around the table. Intricate knowledge of equipment, common faults, survival through equipment failure and a plethora of other topics under discussion amongst the 6 of us.
The other thing that occurred to me is that a lot of this knowledge will disappear as this generation moves to the big station in the sky and the young upcoming engineers, often in regional stations, could have really benefitted from this knowledge.
My mind started ticking and I thought that a possible way to share this knowledge would be to establish a mentoring program whereby retired engineers and the like could mentor young Broadcast engineers who are coming up through the ranks. Many come from the IT world or domestic electronics area’s and, as we no longer have recognised Broadcast technology courses in Australia and no BOCP, they are often left to learn on the job.
A mentoring program could see a young technician being teamed up with a retired engineer who may be in close geographical proximity or may have had extensive experience with equipment that the young technician is working with at his station.
Support could be provided via phone, Skype, emails and occasional face to face meetings.
A data base would be established to enable matching skills of mentors with the needs of the technician and any other parameters deemed useful.
Other spin-offs could develop out of the mentoring program including occasional industry run workshops or remote learning courses via video conferencing or Skype. A community of mutual support could even be established amongst the mentors and the mentored.
Les Sabel the CRA Consulting Engineer has also taken an interest in the project and is keen to pursue the provision of workshop sessions for young technicians. The idea was recently put to members of DTAC – the CRA Digital Technical Advisory Committee and received overwhelming support. CRA have given an undertaking to explore the concept further to establish whether there is a need at technician level and whether we have retired engineers who might want to become mentors.
It goes without saying that mentors will require some renumeration to encourage them off the golf course, favourite fishing spot or camping ground for a few hours to assist our struggling up and coming Broadcast Technicians.
Are you, or do you know a retired Engineer who might be interested in participating in an Engineering Mentor program?
Perhaps you know of a young engineer work in radio who would benefit from the knowledge and expertise of a mentor?
If so, please email me in the first instance with contact details [email protected] and I will collate and pass on details to Commercial Radio Australia who will be managing the project once established.