What does a draughtsperson do?
Computer-aided design (CAD) draughtspeople communicate ideas and designs using drawings that include all the technical engineering specifications which the artisans and tradesmen understand and need in order to build or manufacture the design.
Early drawings were produced using a drawing-board, paper and drawing tools. These days, the drawings are produced using very advanced computer programs (CAD programs) to communicate the dimensions, materials, and technical elements that are required to produce a wide range of products and components, from buildings to fabric. Almost everything that is manufactured or built started with an idea that was communicated using the skill of draughting; the computer, phone or tablet you’re using to view this website had to be drawn before it could be manufactured. Your desk, the chair you’re sitting on, your house, your school, the pen you’re holding… EVERYTHING has to be drawn before it can be built.
A draughtsperson’s skills are used to produce plans and technical drawings for a wide range of products and components, from buildings to fabric. They may also update and make amendments to existing CAD drawings or convert previous inked drawings into computer drawings.
CAD Drawing Office work involves:
- discussing the brief with the team or project leader
- working from drawings, models or computer models
- using specialist computer software (e.g. AutoCAD; Solidworks; Microstation; 3D Studio Max; Sketchup) to build up accurate on-screen drawings that can be viewed from different angles and in two or three dimensions.
Drawings produced by CAD have a range of uses, including:
- providing a virtual tour of a building or area
- showing how the components in a piece of machinery work together
- engineering or architectural drawings that are used for construction
- linking into computer-aided manufacture (CAM) systems
- modelling of installations and testing for operational problems.
CAD draughtspeople usually specialise in a particular industry sector…
such as architectural, mechanical or plant and piping manufacturing or design. Depending on their employer, they could produce drawings and designs for:
- houses, factories, warehouses or bridges
- interiors and kitchens
- individual components and whole assemblies for products as diverse as bicycles, torches and satellites
- packaging and display
- electronic products, including phone systems, computers, control systems or circuits layouts or signalling for road or rail systems
- fabrics, wallpapers or cutting patterns for clothing manufacture.
- Plant and piping layouts and designs
CAD draughtspeople normally work in teams…
with other draughtspeople and professionals including architects, engineers, product designers and engineering designers. It is usual for each draughtsperson to work on a different part of the project.
A junior draughtsperson may work on technical drawings for components or small sections of a product or project. This can sometimes be fairly routine work with little creative input, but works towards improving their ability to visualise and improve their speed and accuracy. It is important that they have a good grounding as they may, at any stage be required to take over work, or pass on work from or to another draughtsperson.
Senior draughtspeople may have responsibility for major sections of the project or the overall design, and could have the opportunity to contribute to decisions about the project. In smaller consultancies, CAD work may be carried out by designers themselves.
Depending on the size of the company and its design section, it may be possible to progress to senior draughtsperson or team leader. Draughtspeople who do further study leading to a degree may be able to progress to positions such as architect or engineer.
A career in draughting – the hours and environment
CAD draughtspeople usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. Some employers operate shift working. Additional hours may be required at busy times. There may be some opportunities for part-time work. They are usually based in a design or drawing office, or in a design section of a larger open plan office. Locations could range from a modern office block to a factory, or to temporary offices on a construction site. They spend most of their time working at CAD workstations or PCs. A lot of concentration is required to do this job, so the environment is usually quiet. Senior draughtspeople may need to visit sites, so a driving license could be useful.
Engineering / Architectural Draughting – Salary and other benefits
These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live. New CAD draughtspeople may start at around R70 000 a year. With more experience, this could rise to between R140000 and R300000. Senior CAD design draughtspeople may earn around R400000 or more. Self-employed or contract CAD draughtspeople may be paid an hourly, daily or at the project rate.
Is this you?
Skills and personal qualities that make a successful CAD Draughtsperson
A CAD draughtsperson should:
- be computer literate and able to use a wide range of software
- understand construction or production methods and processes
- Understand the practical elements of what they are working on
- be confident with numbers have good communication skills
- be able to work in an organised way
- work well in a team or alone
- have normal colour vision.
It is important to enjoy:
- designing on computers and creating drawings
- working accurately and speedily
- finding practical and innovative solutions to design problems
Becoming Employed as a CAD Draughtsperson
All manufacturing and construction companies work from designs and technical drawings, so there are opportunities for CAD draughtspeople throughout Southern Africa. Due to CAD being a universal language, CAD draughtspersons are able to work anywhere in the world. Employers include organisations involved in
- building services
- Interior Design
- mechanical engineering
- vehicle and consumer goods
- manufacture and industrial design
- broadcasting and telecommunications companies
- public utilities such as water and electricity supply
- local authorities and government departments
- design consultancies offering their services to a number of different organisations
- freelance or contract work
- an employer in an apprenticeship-type arrangement
Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, employment portals, by word of mouth through recruitment agencies and in specialist publications. Opportunities may exist for adults with a background in engineering or design. There may be opportunities to work overseas. Freelance work may also be possible, either independently or through an agency.
The qualifications required are certificates and diplomas in CAD software and Draughting. Diplomas in engineering, construction and the built environment and manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this area of work
Training may combine on-the-job training with academies such as the Academy of Inventive Design and Technology. Students work towards the NQF Level 4 qualification: National Certificate Multi-Disciplinary Drawing Office Practive N4-N5.
When they commence their training, CAD draughtspeople are encouraged to apply for membership with the South African Institute of Draughting (SAID).