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May 8, 2015

tekom Active in International Project

Defining Skills and Competencies of Technical Communicators on the European Level

Daniela Straub

In a major initiative, the European Commission is outlining the multilingual classification of skills, competencies, qualifications and occupations on the European level. Under this initiative, tekom has helped to define the profession of the technical communicator.

Through the work of the ESCO ICT Reference Group, the profession of the technical communicator has now been described precisely in an international multilingual classification, and the occupation’s requirements have been detailed.

Since 2013, the European Commission has been working on a Europe-wide classification of skills, competencies, qualifications and occupations, called ESCO. ESCO is part of the Europe 2020 strategy to improve employability and mobility. It provides a European multilingual database and classification of European skills, competencies, qualifications and occupations relevant to the EU labor market as well as to education and training.

ESCO aims to identify and categorize these in a standard way, using standard terminology in all EU languages. 

As the person responsible for training and certification at tekom, I have been involved, together with Dr. Michael Fritz, CEO of tekom, in this international project with regards to technical communication.

Lack of Recognition of the Technical Communicator’s Profession

One major problem technical communicators still face today in many European countries is the lack of recognition of their occupation. This is in part due to the lack of a common international description of the profession or definition of the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies. Within international classifications and frameworks such as NACE and ISCO, the profession of technical communication is incorporated in other occupations and not cited explicitly.

Job agencies, employers and job seekers are often unfamiliar with the occupation and its requirements. National online job portals habitually use one classification system and one language. The lack of a common language and common understanding of the technical communicator’s profession makes it difficult to exchange data and information, particularly between different countries.

Fruitful Cooperation within the Reference Group for the ICT Sector

As active members of the reference group for the ICT sector, we had the opportunity to work together intensely with experts including university teachers and company owners from various European countries over a period of two years, to define occupations in the ICT sector such as the technical communicator and the technical documentation manager. Together, we identified around 40 essential or optional knowledge items, skills, and descriptions.

The challenge also lay in the fact that, similar to the TC sector, the ICT sector represents an occupational field that is evolving. In particular, the clarification of the methodical approach to the creation of taxonomy was very interesting. The work of the ICT sector reference group was successfully completed in late April.

The international multilingual classification and the occupation’s requirements will be available in all European countries and used by relevant stakeholders such as national job agencies, job seekers, employers and training institutes.
The ICT sector classification is expected to be published in spring 2016 on the ESCO portal.

More information about ESCO is available at https://ec.europa.eu/esco.