The results are in. Despite the economic challenges facing the global marketplace today, technical communication professionals are in need of training. The problem is finding the money for the classes (and more often than not, the travel), as well as finding and the right class (see below), at the right (low) price, in the right (nearby) location, from the right (trusted) provider.

Based on the responses of more than 500 technical communications professionals who answered The Content Wrangler Technical Communication Training Needs Survey, the top five hot training topics for 2009 include:

  1. Writing topic-based content for reuse (44.2%)
  2. Darwin Information Typing Architecture aka DITA (36.4%)
  3. Moving to unstructured to structured content (32.5%) – most often from unstructured to structured FrameMaker
  4. XML authoring (28.1%) – in general
  5. Simplified Technical English (20.1%)

The top five software training classes needed by technical communication pros include:

  1. Adobe Technical Communication Suite (19.9%)
  2. Adobe Captivate (15%)
  3. MadCap Flare (14.2%)
  4. Adobe e-Learning Suite (11.8%)
  5. Adobe RoboHelp (11%)

While they didn’t make it into the top five, nearly one in ten survey participants said they need Author-it (9%) training.

The demand for these classes doesn’t always translate into sales, as any trainer will tell you. We asked survey respondents to describe “how likely” it is that they could obtain funding to attend necessary training in 2009. Only about 10% of respondents said getting funding is “no problem” (2.8%) or “should be easy” (7.6%), while the majority said obtaining funds is “not likely” (35.4%) or “impossible” (21.9%) in this economic climate. That’s not the complete picture, however. About one in three technical communicators surveyed said they may or may not be able to get training dollars for needed training classes. This group answered “obtaining funds for training is just as challenging as obtaining funds for any other service” (27.9%).

Whether related to the economy, or to other factors, the most desirable time of year for training classes appears to be evenly split between Fall and Winter, 2009, with Summer a close third. While Summer has traditionally been viewed as a horrible time to plan events, survey data suggests otherwise, with nearly a third of respondents saying they’d like to take courses this Summer.

Factors that most influence selection of classes include:

  1. Training is not provided by a salesperson who works for the vendor
  2. Training is taught by experienced industry expert
  3. Training helps us create (or get started with) our own content
  4. Training is coupled with post-training telephone support and consultation
  5. Training is web-based

This survey was not a scientific examination of the entire universe of technical communicators. Like all industry surveys, this one was designed to capture feedback from respondents—this time about the training needs among those who elected to respond. It also served to provide participants with an opportunity to share their anecdotes, comments, and suggestions (we provided a text box after most questions to allow respondents to share additional information with us).

Here are a few of the more than 400 anecdotes received:

  • “The case to show necessity will have to be stronger than in past, but once the case is made, the funding will be there.”
  • “I would not say that obtaining funding for training is either easy nor difficult. As in years past, I must show how the cost of the training will improve my job performance. The cost of training must be less than the anticipated improvement.”
  • “Our training budget is flat rather than cut.  We will need to provide justification for all training as our budget is shared across the department.”
  • “Our company is being very selective and is utilizing webinars to maximize our training dollars so that multiple folks can attend and we can eliminate travel expenses.”
  • “I’ve stopped looking at materials on any training that costs money, because I know there isn’t any. And there’s no time for the free ones!”
  • “Funds for training held locally probably wouldn’t be a problem, but anything else would be nearly impossible.”
  • “I was already able to get an 8 hour training course paid for this year.”
  • “We can attend training and the company will pay for it, but they won’t pay for the travel, hotel, meals, or any other expenses. None of us can afford to attend unless it is in our home town or close by.”
  • “It all comes down to price. It seems anything over $999 is considered too expensive.”
  • “I will still be continuing to go to training, but I am looking carefully at each training opportunity and cutting back on some that I would have done previously.”
  • “Obtaining funds is the easy part, finding affordable training is another matter!”

Want updated survey results? Things have changed a lot since 2009 in the world of technical communication. To find out how much they have changed, check out the 2016 Technical Communication Benchmarking Survey here!