Challenges for Newbie Translators Addressed by Workforce Skills Development Act

A recent post in the ATAMESL discussion group explored the difficulties new translators encounter. The exchange revealed that, without at least two or three years of experience, translators just starting out in the field have a tough time securing an in-house position at an agency. The reason is that it requires two years of experience (full-time) before a translator becomes fully autonomous, i.e., masters the tools and handles without any major problems the terminology used by the agency’s clients. As a result, newbie translators confront a daunting hurdle.

University programs provide adequate training, of course, but teachers can’t keep up with the changes in our market and the emerging requirements (university co‑op programs might be an exception). We can clearly see that the rate of change is accelerating. Teachers, as close to the translation market as they might be, have to submit proposed courses to their faculties’ curriculum committees. The courses must then be accepted and implemented in a unionized context.

Clearly, the process is grueling. Meanwhile the changes in the translation market keep coming at a brisk clip.

The agencies, whose primary motivation is profit (without which they might as well close up shop), frequently lack the means to provide the support necessary during the first two years of an employee’s tenure. If they do have the resources, they might hesitate to invest them for fear that, once trained sufficiently, translators will strike out for greener pastures.

Newly-minted translators lucky enough to land a job with a large agency should know, however that any company with a payroll in excess of $1 million can take advantage of certain programs in the framework of the Act to Promote Workforce Skills Development and Recognition . The Act requires that, over the course of the fiscal year, a company must invest an amount equivalent to 1% of that year’s payroll in skills development training for their staff. This money, if well-handled by competent managers within the agency, can help new translators hone their skills and attain the level of competence the agency needs to maintain or increase its profitability. In return, the translator must be committed to doing their very best.

This provides a good example of a situation where values—the company’s values and the translator’s personal value —might collide. In this case, solutions exist.

Translation: Nancy A. Locke


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