RE: Tech writing makes the front page

Subject: RE: Tech writing makes the front page
From: "Brautigam, Curtis" <cubrautiga -at- state -dot- pa -dot- us>
To: "'TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2003 07:37:04 -0400

I wonder where they get the figure of 129 technical writers in Maine. The
only thing that I do know is that the technical writing job market around
the United States is still depressed. It was depressed a little more than
one year ago when I was out of work, and it still depressed today. I think
the only area where technical writing jobs are plentiful are those related
to defense and homeland security, and virtually all of these jobs require
security clearances. Another potential sources for technical writing jobs
are biotechnology and the health care industry.

IMHO, the reasons behind the scarcity of technical writing jobs continues to
be the lingering consequences of the dot-com bust, slack business
investments in IT, a new round of mergers (e.g. PeopleSoft acquiring JD
Edwards), the continued hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs, the H1B and L-1
visa programs, outsourcing, and offshoring. Technical communications are
tied heavily to manufacturing (you need manuals to operate machinery),
certain service industries (especially financial services), and IT. All have
been hit severely by the recession (even though financial services have been
doing well, the recent rise in mortgage interest rates and offshoring in
that industry does not bode well).

One bright spot is that lately, business investment in IT is beginning to
pick up again. Running a business with outdated and obsolete equipment (PCs,
printers, servers, networks) that has a life of only two years will affect
productivity and the bottom line. Productivity will suffer when PCs and
servers crash or printers do not work properly. I believe that the demand
for technical writers will continue to be a function of the availability of
venture capital and the extent of technological innovation in the new
companies funded by venture capital or economic development funds. This is
how the hi-tech boom of the 90s occurred. The fact is that large companies
such as Microsoft, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Adobe started out as small
companies. If the sources of capital and business funding dry up, the market
for technical writers looks bleak, irrespective of tool knowledge, technical
expertise, and experience.

Chaim Brautigam
Descriptive Statistician 1
Center for Workforce Information
PA Department of Labor and Industry
cubrauti -at- state -dot- pa -dot- us


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