A lot of people have been talking about the technical skills shortage… we’re doing something about it

Last month Sydney suburban community station 2RRR piloted the community broadcasting sector’s first Studio Blitz practical training course, where technically minded station staff and volunteers were taught the basics of studio maintenance, then used their new skills to clean and align all the equipment in the station.

The activity grew from discussions at Technorama and was then developed into a course by John Maizels for the Community Media Training Organisation (CMTO). “There’s been a lot of talk about the skills shortage… we’re doing something about it.”
Six participants stripped down the station’s two Elan Kestrel consoles, all the faders were cleaned and the consoles were realigned to Zero VU.
“Most stations don’t have enough people to do maintenance, even if they know what needs to be done. And the industry hasn’t been training people, so you find that most community stations have lots of little things that never get fixed.
“The idea of the blitz is to get in on a weekend and do whatever you can in that time… I structured the exercise so that the people attending become educated in the context of their own station. When we find something that needs explaining, I stop everything, explain it to everyone, then everyone learns how to fix the problem together,”  Maizels told radioinfo.
Six people who had never considered opening up a console before ended up knowing how it all worked by the end of the day, and were able to take it apart, clean and align it, then put it back together again.

“They pulled apart the console, disassembled the channel strips, pulled out the faders and cleaned them. When it came to the second studio, I just said, go ahead and do it… and they did.

“It demystified the process, that’s really important. Some of this is easy if you know how but incredibly mysterious if you don’t,” said Maizels.

In the old days of the Broadcasting Control Board, the Engineering Departments of radio stations had a lot of power because there were detailed technical specifications that were required by the regulator, otherwise the station could be put off air. In the modern co-regulatory environment, there are far fewer technical requirements on stations, so there is much less pressure to maintain a large engineering staff and to do regular preventative maintenance. This course aims to bring back some of that preventative maintenance thinking and planning that has been lost over the years as the rules changed.

While this training course took place in an analog station, the same approach will be taken for stations that have digital consoles.
“Digital desks are wonderful things, they have amazing performance and are fully reconfigurable and can sound great, but if you don’t set them up correctly they will sound horrible. At worst case, when you run out of bits, and the engines can’t do the mathematics right, your station will be completely unlistenable. Having people who aren’t afraid to get into the digital systems and understand how they work and keep them going is very important,” said Maizels.
After the studio blitz, the next plan is to develop a Transmitter Blitz course which will roll out after the studio blitz training is in progress across the sector.
The course will now be available to other stations through the CMTO. It is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation and supported by Technorama.

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