In the coming year, expect technical writers to be even more difficult to find, especially if your company is recruiting in the Midwest. The April 2000 report of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) reports in its study of the demand for IT workers that only 50% of the 63,753 open positions in technical writing will be filled.

ITAA surveyed 700 IT managers in both IT and non-IT companies about the potential skills gap. Sixth among the hot jobs, the study found that IT companies had an average of 11 openings for tech writers; non-IT companies averaged 3 openings. These companies were reportedly looking beyond traditional writing and editing skills. Most important were the abilities to analyze project requirements, perform research, and design documents.

Researchers were surprised that hiring managers showed an equal preference for hiring technical writers who had college training in technical writing and those with on-the-job and short-course training. But information-development managers will quickly recognize the small number of college graduates in technical writing. The shortfall among graduates requires that we continue to rely upon training from peers and managers, as well as industry seminars, to bridge the gap.

The full study, Bridging the Gap: Information Technology Skills for a New Millennium (April 2000), is available from the ITAA. Consult their Web site.