Degree or not Degree?
Lee Dougan at Electus Recruitment looks at qualifications in the Technical Docs domain
What do employers look for when hiring Technical Data specialists? The essential requirement on most roles within the technical or engineering domain usually specify that applicants must be degree qualified (or equivalent) or have a different scholarly merit of some sort. In the world of technical data this isn’t the case, so what is the main reason for this?
Is it a lack of recognised academic qualifications in this field within the UK? It’s true that only a handful of these did exist such as the post graduate MA’s in Technical Communication offered by Sheffield Hallam or Portsmouth but at the time of writing, they no longer appear to be running. Then there is the City & Guilds Certificate in Technical Authorship (Tech 5360) which is seen as the primary non degree level qualification for Technical Authors, but less than 1% of the 500+ Technical Data specialists registered with Electus actually have it.
Sure there are general degrees such as mechanical engineering that may lead you into this area and there are some basic courses accredited by the ISTC, but how is a lack of proper specific qualifications affecting the world of Technical Data? Is it stunting salaries for permanent roles, which based on our recent salary survey averages falls just under £30,000 would this increase if candidates had a specific Degree in Technical Data?
There are also no graduate roles in Technical Data and it is unimaginable that a company would employ someone on the merit of a degree alone with no engineering background. How would that person fit into the company and liaise with their peers when they lack the ‘credibility’ of getting their hands dirty and seeing what the systems, equipment or processes are about first hand. The only real market for a degree would be for mature students including those looking for a change of direction or perhaps those leaving the military.
We have found that only 18% of the most recent permanent Technical Data and Author roles that we have been instructed to source at Electus requires some form of academic qualification. None of these stipulated a degree and were mostly all HND/HNC or BTEC in general technical subjects such as mechanical or electrical engineering. Putting this into context, the UK currently releases approximately 186,000 general engineering roles per year of which around 87,000 require people with degrees (including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate) qualifications, which is 47%.
It is apparent that subject matter experience and particular standards are key in this field. The primary basis of recruitment seems to be that the person can do the job, do it accurately, efficiently and have proven themselves in a similar role before. It may sound slightly archaic to say that experience counts - not qualifications, but it seems to work. It might also be one of the reason that contractors are the staple workforce in this discipline, alongside remuneration and project led requirements.
As we start to move into more technologically advanced fields where the use of multiple software packages and complex IT systems to produce and display technical data (for even more complex and advanced systems and equipment) is more prevalent, is it inconceivable that the next generation of Technical Documents specialists will be from an IT and Software background rather than an Engineering one? Perhaps so, and if this is the case, then qualifications in the field may become more mainstream.
Electus Recruitment and Tech Data World (TDW) have come together to provide a unique mix of networking and recruitment services to aerospace, defence and space professionals. Please see attached our latest article regarding the value of a degree for Technical Authors in the magazine.
The partnership sees Electus offering a highly competitive recruitment service to the aerospace, defence and space TD markets, initially focused on the UK, whilst TDW will offer subscriptions to the TDW magazine for all the latest Tech Data news and info.
For more information please visit http://www.techdataworld.com/se/pages/recruitment