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DCCCD Students Use Computer-Aided Design and Drafting to Launch Lasting Careers

George Idagbe

George Idagbe already has a bachelor's degree in architecture from his home country of Nigeria but didn't have the opportunity to learn CADD technology until he came to the United States. 

​Contact: Cesar Canizales
214-378-1859; ccanizales@dcccd.edu

For immediate release — May 1, 2017

(DALLAS) — Human beings have been drafting — the art of creating a drawing of objects or structures to show how they function — for hundreds or even thousands of years. Drafting has evolved from simple drawings in the dirt to sketches on ancient papyrus to today’s computer-aided design and drafting, or CADD.

Computers have made drafting more efficient: Every object that needs to be built and produced has to be sketched and drafted first. But the need for skilled CADD personnel will always exist, and students enrolled in the Dallas County Community College District are poised to take advantage of the job opportunities in that industry.

“Drafting has been around since the beginning of time,” said Steve Billingslea, CADD program coordinator at Mountain View College. “Even cavemen used drafting by drawing in their caves. The industry evolved in the 1980s from board drafting — using sliding rulers, pencils and compasses — to computer software.”

Billingslea said CADD can be used to design anything, from machine parts to architectural designs and more.

CADD: Careers for Detail-Oriented Individuals

Drafting students use programs such as AutoCAD to design objects or Revit for architectural plans for buildings, but even with the aid of computers, they must be very meticulous in their work.

“You need to be a perfectionist,” said Billingslea. “What can earn you a ‘B’ in school can get you fired in the workplace. If you misplace a hole in the design of a part, that can cost a company thousands of dollars, so you have to be a stickler for detail.”

Billingslea explained that if a company produces an object based on a faulty design, then the product can’t be used, which results in losses.  It is for that reason, he added, that “attention to detail is paramount” for a CADD career.

While attention to detail and perfection are key for careers in CADD, drafters also need to know and be good at mathematics.

“AutoCAD is all about geometry,” Billingslea said. “You don’t have to know trigonometry, but you need to be able to add and subtract. But the more math you know, the better off you’ll be.”

“You don’t have to be a mathematician, but you must have a basic knowledge of geometry,” said Mo Manouchehripour, CADD instructor at Richland College. “But the concepts of math and geometry make it easier to understand the processes.”

A Foundation for Careers in Architecture and More

Billingslea said students can use CADD as a springboard to a degree in architecture as well and added that he encourages his students to go into architecture or engineering.

Alexis Velasquez, a student at Mountain View, said he has wanted to become an architect ever since he was a young child, so he started taking CADD classes to acquire the skills and language for a profession in architecture.

“I like math and geometry, and I want to learn how to apply that knowledge,” said Velasquez, who hopes to transfer to the University of Texas at Arlington after he completes his associate degree at Mountain View.

George Idagbe, a student from Nigeria who also attends Mountain View, said he already has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from a university in his home country.

“We don’t have the technology over there,” Idagbe said. “Only the bigger companies use this technology, so I wanted to learn it to work as an architect and design houses and buildings.”

Martin Flores, a freshman at Eastfield College who is studying CADD, said he used to work in the cartography industry. After he was laid off recently, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming an architect.

Cezarian Bass

Cezarian Bass owns an automotive parts business and wants to be able to fabricate his own parts.

​“Even as a kid, I would draw and build structures for fun. It came really easily to me, and it was something I really liked,” Flores said. “I enjoy the challenge of using math to figure out how to build something.”

For Janette Parachini, who is a part-time employee at American Airlines, studying CADD at Mountain View is the final goal of her life-long dream to work as an interior designer. She added that she already has a bachelor’s degree in interior design from the University of North Texas, and she is taking AutoCAD and Revit classes to bolster her credentials.

“I’m close to the end of my career at American Airlines, so interior design will be my second career,” said Parachini, who is 60 years old. “I always thought about being an interior designer, but you have to live life. I supported my family and had kids and grandchildren. Now that the kids are all grown up, I can pursue my dream.”

Well-paid Careers

"Drafting is necessary for anything that is made by human hands," said Bryan Hoben, CADD instructor at Mountain View. “From clothing to electronics, everything has to be drawn and drafted.”

That means jobs will always exist within the industry, and those jobs pay very well. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry-level CADD employees in the U.S. earn about $36,000 per year, and the median wage is almost $53,000. Experienced personnel can make $60,000 to $70,000.

In North Texas, electrical and electronic drafters start at about $43,000, while experienced drafters in that field can make more than $83,000 annually.

Billy Weems, who already works at Klein Tools in Mansfield, Texas, said he’s studying CADD at Mountain View to get a certificate so that he can move up in his company and earn more. 

“My boss told me it was a good idea to take the courses,” said Weems. “The company pays for what you know, and the more you know, the better pay you get!”

Jobs for people with CADD skills are plentiful in the Dallas area, said Marques Washington, CADD program coordinator at Eastfield College. He added that he has a hard time keeping students in school to finish their degrees.

“The last two years have been really good with lots of companies looking for students,” said Washington. “We get referrals from former students who got jobs, and their companies call us when they need more workers.”

Careers in Advanced Manufacturing

At Richland College, students take CADD classes as they learn about advanced manufacturing in the machining lab, which puts them on a path to high-paying jobs at local manufacturing plants.

Steve Nguyen, a second-year Richland student, took CADD classes and now interns at Raytheon, a high-tech defense contractor with manufacturing operations in North Texas. He said he hopes to transfer to the University of Texas at Dallas to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“I really like hands-on type of work,” Nguyen said. “And I always loved watching CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines cutting metal parts, so I decided to learn more about it.”

Cezarian Bass, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran who owns his own automotive parts business, said he is pursuing a certificate in CADD at Mountain View.

“I want to learn how to fabricate my own auto parts for my business,” said Bass. “That way, if I have a machining shop, I don’t have to outsource the job. I can take an idea, give it dimensions and bring the piece to life.”

Eastfield’s Washington said most students don’t know where they’re going to end up, so it’s important for them to have a good command of the basics.

“When students graduate from our school, we make sure they have a strong background in CADD so that they won’t need to ask questions about the software when they get to their jobs,” Washington said. “But we always prepare them to ‘learn to learn.’ That way, a student can take a concept and apply it to the next project.”

For more information about the CADD program at DCCCD, visit the CADD program profile page. To contact Steve Billingslea, email him at sbillingslea@dcccd.edu. To contact Marques Washington, send an email to MarquesWashington@dcccd.edu.

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