Any suggestions on how to gain experience in CAD? I'm an experienced cabinetmaker trying to expand my qualifications in the job market. Local schools only offer general AutoCAD courses. I purchased Autosketch, which is a pretty informal drawing program, and am learning the basics. I would like to gain experience in designing and producing detailed drawings with programs such as Cabinetvision, etc. No room for draftsmen at my place of employment.
From contributor A:
Take advantage of local schools, if they're any good. Get your employer to pay for it. If they're worth anything, they'll cover the costs.
The biggest thing I look for in hiring someone is cabinetmaking experience. Learning the software is easy (read: teachable). Learn how to develop fully engineered shop drawings. I started by gathering up copies of architecturals and noting what is good drafting and what is bad drafting.
I'd definitely stress you learn AutoCAD over any other program. It is the industry standard. If you ever need a new job, there are many more opportunities with acad. Then add other programs to your arsenal.
Finally, if there isn't room for advancement in your company, find one where there is.
In order to be good in all three of these areas, you have to commit to the concept on a personal level. (It sounds like you do!) This means learning it on your own time and not expecting your employer to completely subsidize the learning curve.
Contributor A does make a good point about learning the industry standard. Something to keep in mind, however, is that there are a lot of people who have studied AutoCAD. The universities produce a new batch of them every ninety days. You need to distinguish yourself. There are lots of people who know how to build casework and there are lots of people who know how to run software. There are not so many people who know how to do both. There are a lot of people in the CAD industry who are good at the easy stuff but very few who can do the useful stuff. Most CAD programs have a database engine that allows you to turn the pretty drawings into math that someone can use. This is the part that will make you and your employer some money. Good luck with this and don't wait for your employer to pay for it.
My experience, in all these years of formal and informal training on literally dozens of software packages, is this… Books and school are great - they give you the grounding in the concepts needed to be successful with any software package. But for my money, the absolute best training comes from working with bright, experienced people - it is from them that I have learned the most in the least time.
It is easy to get comfortable in one way of doing things, but seeing someone work more efficiently can be a real eye opener. Currently I teach at the local college, and sometimes students (the good ones) can teach me tricks and techniques that one won't find in the average text book. My best advice would be - keep drafting (I spend hours every day using AutoCAD), branch out into new fields (I think I am in my 4th or 5th) and pay attention to people who use the tools - they've learned things along the way that we can benefit from.
I also suggest you buy a book, with a tutorial CD, and learn at your own pace. In my opinion, a class work environment is way too slow, and too basic. If you can quickly learn concepts like X, Y, Z and are decent at math/geometry, it should be a breeze to learn the basics. Also, learn how to type the right way. Hunting and pecking will really slow you down.