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Tips for hiring and training radio technicians

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Throughout the industry, there is a shortage of good radio technicians, but dealers can close this gap by following best practices for hiring and training employees.

By Ira Wiesenfeld

One of the common issues that most radio shops are having today is the hiring and training of competent radio technicians. This is true for private radio shops owned by individuals, large companies, fleet services of major companies, or government agencies that maintain their own systems and mobile units. This article will point out some of the important items to consider when hiring and how to know if the prospective subject is competent and will perform well in the organization. In addition, the resources that will be spent on training and certifications will be covered.

When looking for a person to hire, it is usually desired to have someone with radio or electronics experience, but that is not always an option. Passing a pre-employment test that proves the individual understands the basics and some of the areas in which they will be working is a good indicator of a qualified candidate.

Ron Taylor—CETma, Motorola Solutions system manager and an Electronics Technicians Association® International (ETA) board director—commented that a major consideration is that a candidate show an aptitude, or at least an interest, in learning computer networking.

“Because at the end of the day, all communication, whether wireless or otherwise, is becoming voice over IP,” he stated.

Although you cannot mandate something like this, finding a potential employee who is a ham-radio operator might indicate an existing interest in this field and some knowledge of radio operation, antenna functioning and RF fundamentals.

Those who have a firm grasp of soft skill—for instance, understanding the importance of following safety directives—and those who express interest in acquiring management skills tend to make excellent employees.

A person with no experience, but with the right attitude and aptitude, will run circles around the more experienced employee who is a slacker, disruptive, a thief, or just plain dumb. If a person arrives late for a job interview, is wearing casual clothes or worse, does not have good hygiene, is rude or obnoxious, leaves you asking yourself if you want to deal with that person on a daily basis.

Certifications do help establish proficiency in a given area. A valid certification should be from a reputable and accredited certifying organization, should be current in status, and must reflect on the updates in technology for the area in which the person is certified. Almost every profession does require ongoing education and training as one of the conditions for a person to keep their certification active and valid. Experts disagree on the “shelf life” of learning, but there seems to be a consensus that no longer than two weeks should pass to make use of newly acquired skills. Regular recertification also may be required to maintain a license or certification.

Radio communications includes quite a bit of cutting-edge technology, so training the people involved is absolutely necessary to maintain the pace at which the business is moving. Training should be provided on two levels: First, the basis of what the technology is about; and, second, the details on the installation, programming, operation, testing, and maintenance of the items that the training program is trying to address.

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