Editor's Window

16 Aug, 2004 By: Sara Ferris

Where have all the CAD jobs gone? Today's job market demands diverse set of skills.

I HEAR THS QUESTION OFTEN these days from readers and Web site visitors, ranging from students considering a drafting career to 20-year AutoCAD veterans to CATIA users with automotive experience. Positions such as drafter and CAD operater are tough to find. Overseas outsourcing, and general economic sluggishness, may account for a certain number of disappearing jobs, but other factors appear to be at work, too. Drafting in many cases is no longer done by a specialist—it's been absorbed into the duties of engineers, designers, architects, and others. One of the big selling points of 3D modeling software is that it generates the 2D drawings automatically as a byproduct of the 3D model.


Michael Dakan, in a recent edition of the AEC Tech News e-mail newsletter, points out that drafting tasks in AEC firms are frequently done by architectural interns, who must work under the supervision of a licensed architect before they can apply for licensure.

Indeed, it's nothing new to speculate that drafting is dead. Back in 1994, and then again in 2001, this space urged students to focus not only on drafting skills, but also on the processes and materials used in manufacturing and building. The traditional associate's degree is not sufficient anymore. Companies are looking for at least a bachelor's in engineering or architecture for entry-level positions. Those starting out should view CAD skills as only one element that future employers will require.

Certainly, there are and will continue to be job openings for CAD drafters, but they'll become harder and harder to find. The Department of Labor predicts slower-than-average growth for drafting positions, which totaled about 216,000 in 2002. Future growth for engineering jobs is also predicted to be below average, but the total job pool—around 1.5 million across all disciplines—is larger. The Labor Department does anticipate greater-than-average growth in surveying and mapping work.

Those drafting positions that are advertised, by both architectural and mechanical firms, most often require a certain amount of actual work experience with a particular software package. So even if you do expand your software repertoire through continuing education, that may not be enough for prospective employers. A better path may be to invest in architectural or engineering classes. (Even those lucky enough to have stable jobs should study up on new skills, especially when you can get your company to pay for it.)

Also tailor your résumé emphasize not only your technical skills, but how those skills benefited your previous employers. Think in terms of results: You didn't just design new housings, you designed new housings that reduced bearing wear and cut maintenance downtime by 30%. Also be sure to note nontechnical experience and skills that employees value: working as a team member, supervisory experience, presentation skills, proven ability to learn new skills, and so forth.

Perhaps those of you now working and hiring can pass along additional tips for those struggling to find work, whether it's classes to take, fields to focus on, or skills to highlight in résumés E-mail your ideas . "> .

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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