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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

A World of Change (Part 1): Offshoring and Job Transition

A recent heated debate (see it all in the Nov.2003 archives) on a technical writing discussion list has raised a lot of thoughts in my mind about globalization, economics, and how professions change over time in individual and global ways. The debate which lasted for the good part of a week exposed many different views and opinions. The catalyst of the exchange was an article that appeared in the San Jose Mercury Times, Caught in the pull of globalization, reporting what many people and corporations think of the trend to send technical jobs overseas to cheaper labor markets such as India and China.

Many who responded on the discussion list had bitter feelings about it like those in the article. The tech writing industry has been hit very hard, some people complaining of unemployment that has lasted months and even years. For those personally affected by the decline in jobs, the resentment was obvious.

Although this article is mostly about programmers and other high-tech employees, I think it has relevance to TNE and the rapid changes that are taking place in education worldwide.

Summarizing the division, "On one side are American workers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who feel anger, fear and profound uncertainty as white-collar tech jobs quickly move to lower-cost countries...

On the other side are business executives and economists who argue that the offshoring of jobs is unstoppable and ultimately healthy for the United States, spurring this country to shed certain jobs and create more sophisticated ones in order to stay atop the ladder of innovation. The shift of tech work overseas is just the latest chapter in decades of globalization, they argue."

This was a source of considerable debate for writers, some agreeing that the shift was good overall for the economy, others saying the promised job creation is not happening. With so much work going on with learning objects, instructional automatization, and electronic methods for delivering and duplicating courses, where do you think educators stand on this? I've met more than one professor out there who believed that contributing their intellectual property to an online course makes them obsolete. What do we need the professor for if we have the content and a cheaper Teaching Assistant can take the class?

How would administrators look at this? Does "Shedding certain jobs and creat[ing] more sophisticated ones" work here? It is happening, and many educators are going to be faced with this shift. The transition from the knowledge owner to the knowledge guide is a reality, but not something that sits well with a lot of educators.

posted by Mark at 7:10 PM | Link | Comments

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Tom Nickel
TNE Lead Blogger
Guangzhou, PRC
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