Often, during my career as a CAD manager, there were times when I wished I could check competence levels within my CAD team. Sure, we had devised a little AutoCAD test for interview candidates—twenty minutes to create a small drawing with a basic title block—but I wanted more. I wanted to know if everyone was on the same page, if everyone could do the basic stuff, without me having to worry about any knowledge gaps. If only Autodesk Certification had been around back then. It would have made my life so much easier.

Autodesk Certification is Autodesk’s professional qualification, providing the benchmark for six of its hero products: AutoCAD, AutoCAD Civil 3D, 3ds Max Design, Inventor, Maya, and Revit Architecture.

What Are the Benefits?

As a CAD manager, what exactly are the benefits of having an Autodesk Certified CAD team? In the immortal words of Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?” What, if anything, will it bring to you and your CAD team?

First, competition for CAD talent in today’s marketplace is fierce. If you want your CAD guys to become CAD Jedis, make sure you nurture them and help them get certified. That way, you are seen as the good guy. You are helping them to be better, smarter, and, in return, you are getting an assessment of how good they are at their jobs. Certification is great for benchmarking, and it is real simple: They either pass or fail the exam. If they fail, the results give you a detailed analysis of what they need to learn to pass when they retake the exam. They can retake the exam at any time. It is not a free exam, though, so it is in their best interest to pass the first time. The cost is not prohibitive, so you can perhaps offer to pay for the exam if they agree to pay for the training materials—manuals, training video DVDs, and so on. By showing this degree of care for your staff, you are more likely to retain the CAD Jedis on your team.

Second, once your CAD Jedis are certified, they get some great stuff, too. They get an industry-recognized qualification that proves that they know their Autodesk CAD product, and they can use the Autodesk Certified logo on their correspondence. Think of the kudos they will get with your clients when the client sees emails from your CAD team, showing their certified logo, proving that your company/organization has an Autodesk Certified Professional CAD team.

What Do the CAD Jedis Need to Do to Get There?

The nicest thing about certification is that it is not there to catch you out. It is there to allow you to prove you know what you are doing with the software. I am an Autodesk Certified Professional for AutoCAD 2013, and, yes, it is an exam, but provided you have done the groundwork and got enough experience, you should pass without too much stress.

The basic requirement is an Essentials/Fundamentals course on the appropriate CAD product, plus 400 hours of live experience on that product. Once you have those, you can apply to your local Autodesk Certification Center (ACC), which in most cases tends to be your local Autodesk Authorized Training Center (ATC). There is a search engine to find your ACC at www.autodesk.com/certification. Autodesk also provides Exam Preparation Roadmaps on the website, allowing you and your CAD team to work on the areas they need to know for the exam. Most seasoned CAD users should be able to become certified professionals in their chosen Autodesk CAD product without too much trouble. There are also many Autodesk-approved certification guides (manuals) out there that give you superb learning material to work with. Check out Wiley (www.wiley.com), Sybex (a Wiley brand on the Wiley website), and ASCENT (www.ascented.com) for great training manuals. ASCENT also offers an excellent e-book system (VitalSource Bookshelf) that allows you to have your e-book on your PC, laptop, and tablet. I use it constantly for all of my training needs.

How Does Certification Get Your CAD Team Working Smarter?

Not only does certification give you a great benchmark to work with, it allows you to assess areas on which your CAD team needs to work. As mentioned earlier, a fail gives you a detailed analysis of what areas need addressing before the individual retakes his or her exam. Also, if a CAD team member gets a question incorrect but still passes, you also get a detailed analysis of what was incorrect and how it can be rectified. As the CAD manager, this gives you all the information you need to build up the training for the team. You could work with your Autodesk ATC to build a certification-training program for before (and after) the certification exams, for example. That gets your CAD team working to their potential, and gets them all on the same page and at the same level. So they are all working smarter.

What Happens After Certification?

You reward your CAD team—period. Taking exams again can be pretty daunting for some, so reward your team! It might just be doughnuts and coffee each morning for a week, or even a slap-up meal one weekday lunchtime, or sushi when they are working overtime.

On a professional level, help your team maintain those certification skills. Make sure they get product update training. Send them on intermediate and advanced training courses. The smarter your CAD team is, the more productive they become!

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