ST. PETERSBURG — A breathtaking skyscraper, a majestic bridge or any beautiful, elaborate structure—they all begin life as a drawing. Through the Drafting program at Pinellas Technical College (PTC), 901 34th St. S. in St. Pete, students have the chance to sketch out a career for themselves in technical drawing.
The initial courses of the 18-month program give students the opportunity to develop fundamental drafting skills, including reading blueprints and basic dimensioning, before moving on to the computer programs.
“They learn basic drafting principles and sketching,” explained instructor Ryan Gorman. “We quickly get them into the software that’s used in the industry.”
Gorman said that AutoCAD is the main industry software, while the SketchUp software program is useful for creating visual graphics.
“Because of its low price,” Gorman said, “a lot of architects are using it. We also teach Inventor, which is for mechanical drafting—it’s a 3D designing and engineering software.”
The Drafting Assistant and Drafting Detailer courses include training in pictorials, basic architectural drawings and basic electrical/electronic drawings. Students are also introduced to Building Information Modeling using Revit software.
“In Building Information Modeling,” Gorman said, “you actually digitally build the structure yourself, so instead of drawing two lines that represent the thickness of a wall, I create a wall type then I place the wall and give it a height. And at the same time that I’m drawing the floor plan, the elevation and the 3D model are being created, too. If you do things properly then all the schedules and legends that construction documents will need will be generated also.”
In addition to the relevant software, PTC strives to supply the students with up to date tools of the trade, such as the 3D printer that is on order for the program.
“We’re excited about that,” Gorman enthused. “I think it’s going to help students visualize the work they’re doing on the computer.”
The well-rounded Drafting program also trains students in communication skills, employability skills and entrepreneurship.
“We make sure that our students are ready for the workforce,” Gorman attested. “In addition in being able to use the software you have to be able to interact with other people. Some of our students desire to work for themselves, so we have some basic tips on how to be organized and how to promote yourself through portfolios and through resumes.”
An integral part of course is building portfolios, he explained, which Gorman and the students initially use to monitor how far they have come in the program.
“Then we take that same portfolio and we transform it into a professional portfolio they can take on interviews or present to potential clients,” he said.
Drafting is a program that attracts students of all ages, as there are dually enrolled high school students taking the courses alongside adults who have many years of workforce experience under their belts.
“I have some gentlemen that are past retirement age who’ve just come in to refresh their knowledge,” Gorman affirmed. “Some of them were engineers in the past and want to keep their skills sharp.”
Once students graduate from the program, PTC helps with job placement. And since Gorman has 15 years of experience in the industry working for architects, engineers and has also done his share of freelance work, he has been able to place students with some prestigious companies, including G. A. Nichols Construction in Clearwater and the St. Pete engineering firm Koly International.
Though Gorman admitted that the industry was in a bit of a decline during the recent economic climate, he affirmed that there has been an upswing.
“The market was hit just like everything else during the recession,” he said, “but what I’ve found in the last year and a half is because of that, there’s a high demand now. People got out of the industry and a lot of architects that I’ve worked with have been telling me that they’re short staffed and they are pretty busy. So it’s hard for them to do the training in house, and they are looking for well qualified individuals.”
As far as career choices go, Gorman said, drafting appeals to a wide range of personalities.
“If you’re a very creative person,” he said, “there’s certainly room to be creative and create some beautiful drawings. But if you’re a really technical, detail-oriented person, you also have the opportunity to create drawings that are very technical and very detailed. Everything that’s ever been created, invented and manufactured has to be drawn by somebody, to get that idea out of their head and onto paper. That’s what we do.”
If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.