CAD Technician

    If you are wondering how to become a CAD technician, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the design industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Computer aided design (CAD) technicians use software to create detailed 2D and 3D designs and blueprints in a wide range of industries, such as engineering, construction and manufacturing.

    Technicians usually use two CAD techniques: surface modelling and solid modelling. They use surface modelling to create flat representations of products, for example new motor vehicle designs. Clients then give feedback on these designs before engineers build and test prototypes.

    Technicians use solid modelling to build 3D images of structures and components. They can use these to test internal stresses and strains and identify weak points, for instance in tunnels or on bridges. They also use solid modelling to create 3D displays, which allow engineers to take a ‘virtual tour’ around a building or inside a piece of machinery.

    As well as design plans, CAD technicians use the modelling techniques to help in the preparation of cost estimates, assembly instructions and maintenance manuals for the product in question.

    Technicians can specialise in a variety of CAD work, including:

    computer aided industrial design (CAID)
    computer aided engineering (CAE)
    computer aided styling (CAS)
    computer aided manufacturing (CAM).
    CAD technicians normally work in a team, with each person working on a different part of the project under the guidance of a design engineer.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good computer aided designers include:

    a knowledge of the practical uses of engineering design principles
    good numeracy and computer literacy skills
    good communication skills
    an appreciation of material properties
    an understanding of manufacturing processes and construction methods
    good problem-solving skills
    creative flair
    the ability to work as part of a team and to deadlines.

    How to become a computer aided design technician
    You may be able to become a CAD technician by starting as an apprentice with an engineering or construction firm. Funding for apprenticeships is available for 16-24 year olds and some over-25s.

    To get onto an apprenticeship scheme, you will need four GCSEs (A-C), such as maths, science, engineering, design and technology or equivalent qualifications.

    An alternative way to gain CAD skills, is to take a college course. These courses are open to all ages and include:

    BTEC First Certificate in Engineering Level 2
    BTEC National Certificates / Diplomas in Mechanical, Manufacturing or Civil Engineering
    City & Guilds Certificate in Computer Aided Design Parametric Modelling levels 1 to 3
    City & Guilds Certificate in 2D Computer Aided Design (4353) Level 2, and Level 3, which allows you to specialise in 2D or 3D design.
    There are many specialised CAD software packages, including AutoCAD LT, Autodesk Architectural, CATIA, PRO/Engineer, SolidWorks and 3ds Max, but the college training courses tend to use AutoCAD as the basis for learning. Check with local colleges for exact details of the packages they cover.

    For information about careers within the construction and engineering sectors, see the SEMTA, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and Women into Science, Engineering and Construction websites in Further Information. The Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland) also has careers information and a course database for local colleges.

    Training and Development
    Once you are working as a CAD technician, you can train in specific software relevant to your sector. For example, you might train on PDS (Plant Design Systems) if your company designs petrochemical facilities.

    There are a number of qualifications available, which cover CAD but the exact award you take will depend on your job. Courses include:

    NVQ Performing Engineering Operations levels 1 and 2
    NVQ Engineering Technical Support Level 3
    EAL Advanced Diploma in Engineering and Technology Level 3.
    BTEC HNC/HNDs and foundation degrees in Engineering / Construction and Civil Engineering also contain CAD units. These are offered by colleges and universities.

    If you are an experienced CAD technician, you could consider registering with the Engineering Council to gain EngTech status for professional development purposes.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Junior CAD technicians earn between £15,500 and £19,500 a year
    Average salaries for experienced technicians are between £22,000 and £26,000
    Senior CAD technicians can earn upwards of £30,000 a year.

    Job Prospects
    As well as light and heavy engineering, you can find work as a CAD technician in many other industries including construction, aerospace, railways, electronics, broadcasting and telecommunications. Vehicle and consumer goods manufacturers are other common employers.

    Your options for career progression include promotion to team or section leader, project manager and site manager. With further training, design engineering may be a possibility. You may be able to work freelance if you are an experienced technician.

    Useful design industry resources:
    Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB)
    Blue Court
    Church Lane
    Kings Langley
    WD4 8JP
    Tel: 01923 260000
    NASEC Administration: 01923 402155

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