A regular contributor to Radio World, the author writes here in his role as chairman of the SBE Education Committee.
Over the years, I have often been asked, “How does one get into broadcast engineering?” Certainly the question came a lot more often in years past than it does today, but still, people do ask.
The underlying question is really, “What is the educational path into broadcast engineering?” That’s a question that doesn’t have an easy or direct answer.
When many of us in the senior ranks of broadcast engineering got into the business, a number of schools did offer broadcast engineering specific curricula.
An employer could hire a graduate from one of these programs with some comfort level that the graduate would have a certain amount of trade-specific knowledge, a starting point for real-world training. A lot of folks built their careers that way, starting off with some educational credentials and an FCC First Phone and building their knowledge and skills on the job.
Things are much different today.
For one thing, how does one define the term “broadcast engineer”?
What does a broadcast engineer do? What skills are required? If anything, the scope of knowledge for a broadcast engineer has gotten broader, encompassing everything from analog audio/video to digital audio/video, IT, networks, microwave/satellite communications, all things RF, towers, HVAC, plumbing, electrical … the list goes on and on.
So how does one train for all that?
With so few broadcast engineering-specific educational paths out there, those wishing to pursue a career in this business often come our way with a much narrower pedigree, with education in IT or electronics, occasionally coming from the military with good but narrowly-focused training.
It’s up to the employer and the fledgling broadcast engineer to further his or her education and training to produce the sort of well-rounded, well-trained individual that we need.
For many years, there has been no single source where such an individual could get all the piecemeal training required, and that’s still the case. The options were/are factory schools and training on specific equipment and occasional offerings by the SBE, NAB and other entities.
Virtually all of these have been worthwhile offerings — time and effort well spent in rounding out one’s pedigree and knowledge base — but finding many of these opportunities has been hit or miss.
The SBE wants to change all that. We want to serve our membership and the broadcast engineering community at large by proving a single source of educational opportunities in topics/areas that radio and television engineers need.
Through its Ennes Workshops, RF Safety Training, Leader Skills and other efforts (including events at national, regional and local conferences), we already have a good start and foundation.
But we realize it’s not enough. There is still a great deal out there for which there is no convenient source of education and training.
For most of the past year, the SBE Education Committee has been working on a new program that will offer reasonably priced, on-demand online educational courses to broadcast engineers.
At present, we are working on getting the underlying infrastructure for this program in place, and we anticipate having the first courses available this summer.
Our first course offerings will be from materials we already have on hand, educational materials from committee members and others who have in the past hosted or taught educational seminars or classes.
As we pick up speed, we want to broaden the field. We are seeking those in the broadcast engineering community who would be willing to offer some of their time and efforts in creating, editing and reviewing courses in anything and everything broadcast engineering but primarily focusing on areas where working broadcast engineers need training now.
Those who would be willing to help in this effort are encouraged to contact the SBE.
We also need to hear from broadcast engineers as to what training they want and need. We will be conducting a survey that will help us determine the topics on which we should focus. But beyond that, we would love to hear directly from broadcast engineers. Those responses and ideas will drive our educational efforts as we go forward.
Clearly, replenishing the ranks of broadcast engineers requires our industry to “grow our own.” The way to do that is through education that is topically relevant, convenient and priced right.
The SBE recognizes this, and we intend to do our part to provide those educational opportunities.
Cris Alexander, CPBE/AMD/DRB, is director of engineering for Crawford Broadcasting.