Ham Radio or Amateur Radio clubs are an integral part of Amateur Radio. In fact the oldest club was formed in 1909.
It is generally accepted that you will contact your local club to find out more about the hobby, maybe attend a few meetings to learn more, and will eventually end up taking the exams put on by your local club.
This is by no means the only way it can be done, but it is rare (at least at the foundation licence level) that you not choose to be supported and assisted by your club to get through the process and in most cases take part in their education classes.
Lets look at what Ham Radio Clubs do currently (but not necessarily limited to) :-
- Physical or Virtual Meeting Place to meet like minded individuals
- Presentations from knowledgeable members and guests
- Small local radio competitions
- Licence Courses (usually foundation – but may hold standard and Advanced)
- Licence Exams (normally all three levels of licence)
- Subsidised Equipment Hire or No Cost Equipment Library (Antenna Analysers etc)`
- Install / manage and maintain UHF/VHF repeaters including DMR / FM / Echolink / IRLP
- WICEN Co-ordination/Affiliation
- Field Day / Hamfest Events
- Local NET’s
You must be careful not to dismiss the value of a local club.
Lets look at monetary value first. Ham radio clubs normally purchase / install / maintain the repeaters in your local area, and these repeaters need ongoing maintenance and sometimes replacement which does cost, and club membership is where those funds come from. Even if you are not into VHF/UHF communications now, you may be interested in the future. I say the future, as for some older hams downsizing, moving into villages, moving into retirement homes, the choice of VHF and UHF might be a forced choice (seen many retirement villages with a 10m mast and yagi lately?).
As a foundation license holder, you have a couple of directions you can go
- Go it completely alone, do you own research on the Net and some publications, make some mistakes (as we all do), but move at your own speed
- Find like minded people at your local Amateur Radio Club, share ideas and new discoveries, share research and participare in NET’s organised by your radio club and accelerate your learning.
Either way is completely fine, all of us have different interests and different goals, but if you are like many, you want to experience as much as possible, and possibly choose a particular facet to spend more time on. Belonging to a club, can provide those resources, whether its from the club itself or an interested group from within the club
In terms of resources for members, clubs normally have :
- Discord or Slack (of similar) live forums where formal and informal meetings are held, as well as a general question area.
- Mailing Lists or Group.IO lists for emailing questions and answers
- Website – providing news and information on Club Events
- Facebook pages for subgroups
- Education via Face to Face or online (particularly for Standard and Advanced)
- SOTA Alerts – letting other members know that you are going to activate a SOTA location
- Relaying of WIA news on Sundays and subsequent call backs
The best thing is to talk to your local club and find out what they can offer.
However, it is also up to you to involve yourself, suggest ideas, get like minded people together, even if it is over coffee and do a bit of rag-chewing. You will be surprised how much you can learn from each others experiences, equipment, directions, mistakes etc. Just because your hobby supports you sitting anonymously behind a microphone, does not mean you cannot meet in person every once in a while.