What is the value of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Certifications?

Since 2006, all Florida secondary and post-secondary technical education professionals have been thinking about the value of Industry-validated credentials as assessment tools to define student competencies in all career clusters.  It’s a challenging exercise to embed the skills defined by industry credentials into High School, post-secondary and baccalaureate technical programs and to be sure that the credential competencies are met in the bigger educational context.  Other than the monetary premiums that the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) provides to schools if/when students are successful completing the certification assessments, there is always the question of the “return on investment” for students and educators.

A recent article in the Journal of Engineering Technology (JET) asks the question about the value of computer-aided design (CAD) vendor-specific credentials. Several commercial design software programs offer credentials to both professionals and students.  The small study focused only one of these, SOLIDWORKS. During recent years, SOLIDWORKS (like other design software vendors) has developed an array of Certifications at various levels from student level Associate to Master and Expert with some focusing on specific discipline specializations. 
Adoption of SOLIDWORKS by educational institutions has continued to grow since their first certification was granted in 2008.  Approximately 204,000 people worldwide have passed the CSWA {Certification of SOLIDWORKS Associate), the entry-level credential which costs $99. The most prestigious and highest-level SOLIDWORKS credential is known as the SOLIDWORKS Expert and, represents a significant investment.

The small research study by Rustin Webster and Rudy Ottway (Journal of Engineering Technology, Fall 2018) were interested in determining what the value of SOLIDWORKS credentials for students in both Engineering and Engineering Technology programs.  They also surveyed working professionals learn if they had found their SOLIDWORKS credentials beneficial and valuable in getting their position. The research team identified 156 credentialed SOLIDWORKS at the Professional and Expert levels (all working professionals) of which 58 responded to their survey conducted in several Midwest states.  91% of the respondents agreed that obtaining a SOLIDWORKS credential is, in general, valuable and beneficial.  For students applying for internships, co-op positions or open new positions, holding a SOLIDWORKS Associate or Professional certification was beneficial during interviews and during the whole job-seeking processes.  More details can be found in the published article.

Although the Webster and Ottway study was small in scope and focus, its results suggest a benefit for engineering and engineering technology students.  There are few evidence-based research studies on the value of industry certifications for students or workers in applying for or being selected for new positions in any field.  More research in this area would help educators support continued use industry-valued credentials in academic curriculum. Despite the lack of evidence of the benefits of obtaining credentials in technical programs, industry credentials are increasingly being aligned to academic Career and Technical Education (CTE)programs at all levels. At a different level, the use of credentials in academic curricula has helped industry professionals and educators to communicate better about student competencies and skills using the same vocabulary. In the short term, many academic STEM programs at the secondary, post-secondary and baccalaureate levels will continue to benefit from using nationally vetted credentials to better align curriculum and programs to local, regional and national industry needs. 

You can find out more about SOLIDWORKS credentials at www.solidworks.com and you can find the article by Webster and Ottway on Researchgate.net.  Information about the Engineering Technology Division of the American Society of Engineering Education (ETD of ASEE) and their Journal of Engineering Technology, please click here. To learn more about the use of industry-validated credentials in CTE curriculum in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) website.

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