August 17, 2009
SolidWorks “Engineering Stimulus Package” Builds New Skills
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Nick Cook wasn’t looking for work until the economy “turned my 401K into a 201K.”
Early in his search, the retired aerospace engineer heard of a possible opening at a local company, Aerocet (
), that makes advanced composite aircraft floats for seaplanes. But there was a catch: Aerocet engineers use SolidWorks software, yet Cook had used a different program his whole career.
Cook contacted Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. and learned that the company gives free SolidWorks licenses to displaced designers and engineers, so he downloaded the software. A week later, he let Aerocet know he was getting up to speed on their preferred CAD program. Impressed with his initiative, not to mention his resume, the Priest River, Idaho, company hired him.
“I’m grateful SolidWorks was available to me,” Cook says. “It’s a real service for DS SolidWorks to offer it to job seekers who need it. It helped me land a truly perfect job working on some exciting products. If the Engineering Stimulus Package (ESP) Program had not been available, I’m not sure what I would have done.”
Cook’s colleagues at Aerocet appreciate the program, too. “We have a high-caliber engineering team with uncompromising standards, and Nick is a perfect fit,” said Operations Manager Garry Hojan. “His initiative to start learning SolidWorks confirmed his passion for joining our company, and he hit the ground running.”
Cook is just one of the success stories emerging from the SolidWorks Engineering Stimulus Package program (
) unveiled April 6 to give job-seekers a chance to learn valuable new career skills in computer-aided design. A recent DS SolidWorks survey of ESP participants found that:
More than 9,000 displaced designers and engineers have taken advantage of the free SolidWorks CAD software.
More than one in 10 respondents had secured jobs by mid-July.
More than 80 participants have become Certified SolidWorks Associates (
Another 253 are actively seeking certification.
More than 60 authorized SolidWorks resellers have provided free training to ESP participants in North America and Europe.
Resellers have offered more than 100 training sessions.
The ESP also helped authorized SolidWorks reseller FISHER/UNITECH build on the success of its own CAD skills (re)training program. “After learning SolidWorks basics, most participants were eager to extend their experience with SolidWorks for an additional 90 days through the ESP,” said President and CEO Charles Hess. “These individuals were already good designers and engineers, and now they are becoming very, very good at SolidWorks. They will make fine hires by the lucky employers who get them. In fact, several have already secured new jobs where SolidWorks experience was a deciding factor.”
The ESP gives free SolidWorks CAD software licenses, training videos and tutorials, networking, certification, and potential job leads to any job seeker. “The ESP expresses our gratitude to the global community of users who have made us the success we are,” said Fielder Hiss, vice president of product management for DS SolidWorks. “We’re mindful that they have placed their faith and trust in us from the earliest days of the company, and we are paying that generosity back. The ESP is exactly what we should be doing to provide some assistance to our constituents at this challenging time.”
The SolidWorks Engineering Stimulus Package includes:
Software: a 90-day license of the SolidWorks Student Design Kit software for non-commercial use, with tutorials and documentation, plus the SolidWorks
email-enabled file sharing tool;
Training: Hands-on test drives and other training from participating SolidWorks value-added resellers (VARs) around the world;
Networking: Access to the SolidWorks Customer Portal for support, networking, and discussion; and
Certification: Free testing to become a
, a credential that documents SolidWorks competence and distinguishes job candidates for selective employers.
The ESP program’s success is being replicated around the world. It was launched in Europe May 5 and will soon expand to Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, and India.
To participate in or learn more about the SolidWorks Engineering Stimulus Package, visit
, a company focused on creating on-demand knowledge resources for users of SolidWorks and SolidWorks-related software, is DS SolidWorks’ official online training partner in the Engineering Stimulus Package program.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Although SolidWorks is not the only MCAD or technical software company to offer generous assistance to displaced workers (see the Autodesk announcement below in “The Week’s Top 5”), it’s especially interesting because of the scope of the program itself and the degree to which its community is also involved. Those in the SolidWorks Engineering Stimulus Package game include not only the company itself, but also resellers, partners, and users – a true community effort that is one of the basic tenets of SolidWorks’ success over the years. It’s an especially comprehensive effort that involves the company’s software, training, certification, and networking – all
necessary elements for the program’s success, as well as the success of the participants.
Of course, the software companies are not the only ones involved in re-educating displaced workers in the technical arena. Several states are offering free or low-cost programs at community colleges, technical/vocational schools, and even state colleges and universities.
If you don’t have any of these physical educational resources in your area and can’t attend classroom sessions (which I can’t in semi-rural Colorado), there’s always the virtual route and eLearning. Some of my favorites are I GET IT, Solid Professor, and even Lynda.com. There are also a number of educational blogs and forums for just about any technical software you can think of. Finally, don’t overlook the vendor’s sponsored or independent user groups that meet either physically at a location or virtually on the Web. They are great not just for educational purposes, but also networking for potential employment, as well.
I know a number of people who own/operate or work for small- and medium-sized companies (design/engineering firms, machine shops, toolmakers, foundries, etc.) who are taking advantage of the current down trend in their businesses to re-educate themselves in a variety of ways. Some are learning (or relearning) CAD/CAM/CAE packages; some are learning entirely new skills, such as reverse engineering or simulation/analysis for taking their businesses in new directions; some are getting more comfortable with PDM; while others are getting acquainted with social networking tools, such as Twitter, Plaxo, and Facebook.
While some may consider this reinvention frivolous, I think a lot more people are realizing (finally) that learning truly is a lifelong process. You can’t sit on and rely what you learned 20, 10, 5, 3, or even 1 year ago. I’ve been impressed by the number of people I know who are not just complaining about the present and future, but are actually doing something about improving their prospects today and tomorrow. I encourage these folks to keep at it, because I believe that over the long haul, they will likely be the recipients of a successful and prosperous future.
On one hand I was surprised, but on the other hand I wasn’t that the lead story for the last issue of MCADCafe Weekly entitled,
“Open Source An Alternative CAD Source?”
got such a broad range of responses. It actually generated the largest amount of feedback that we have received in a long time. Some was positive about the open source software movement, some was skeptical and negative, but most was somewhere in the middle. Following is one of the more interesting and thoughtful responses we received:
“I love the "gift/service," utopian concept of Open Source. The idealist in me gives an enthusiastic hurrah for the little David who's pelting increasingly effective stones at the big greedy commercial Goliath.
But the thing that nags at the back of mind when I think of Open Source is my assumption that open source developers are able to spend free time on OSS because of the fact that their livelihoods are secure thanks to day jobs with commercial software manufacturers. I'm extremely curious how OSS developers' efforts would be funded if OSS products toppled and killed off Goliath and, as a result, the OSS developers found themselves with no income source. I don't suspect many creativity-driven, introverted developers would easily slip into the OSS-spawned service roles that generate income.
I wonder if many would have to become reluctant entrepreneurs and start new software companies that develop commercial software in order to replace the income they used to get from the commercial software companies they could underbid because of the pay they got from them.
I find it all a bit ironic if OSS developers feel idealistically superior when it's the hand that feeds them that they may be responsible for eventually cutting off.
I know lots of artists, musicians, actors, photographers, and non-profit volunteers who can pursue their passions, as I do, because commercial ventures' income enable us to pay our bills and give generous grants that keep arts institutions alive. If OSS became mandatory in the U.S. and the EU, who'd fund all the laid off software employees and underfunded non-profits?
So I wonder, did you hear anything about that at OSCON, is anyone thinking about it? Am I just weird to be concerned about where salaries are to come from if software became generally free?
An MCADCafe reader, artist and engineering director, gratefully employed by a commercial software company.”
While I do agree with some of the points this reader brings up, especially some aspects of payment, I also believe that the Open Source movement is a great learning opportunity for people with several different skill sets, and not just programmer/developers. It also offers a chance to get involved with a community working toward a common goal.
I did not mean to imply in our last MCADCafe Weekly lead story that I hoped OSS would be the exclusive domain or approach for technical software, but rather as an alternative or supplemental role. A lot of people use and enjoy commercial software, while some do not (for various reasons – cost, hardware overhead, etc.). It’s the latter group that I see being more involved with OSS. Those who are dissatisfied with commercial software and are inclined to participate in OSS are more likely to adhere to the following adage: “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Cyon Research Corp. announced the availability of its 2009 Survey of Engineering Software Users, a follow-up to the firm’s 2008 survey, published in January 2009. This new Cyon Research report pays particular attention to information of value to companies that sell technical software to the manufacturing and AEC markets, and also to those who invest in such companies. The report is available for purchase from Cyon Research for $2,000. Cyon Research’s 2009 Survey of Engineering Software Users is based on responses from nearly 600 users of CAD, CAE, and data management (PDM/PLM/BIM) software and focuses on customer purchasing policies, practices, and spending expectations. The
report explores four key types of information: demographics; how each respondent’s firm differentiates itself from its competitors; select criteria considered in the purchase of technical software; and the impact of the recent downturn in technical software spending. In the latter area the report examines projections for spending on software maintenance, current acquisitions, planned technology acquisitions, and overall spending for product design and development. The report looked not only at actions taken, but also at spending policies about to be put in place, as well as those under consideration. The report also examines the procurement process itself: who is involved at each stage
of the acquisition process, how long each stage typically takes, and the channels through which the respondents procure software. The result was a vast amount of raw data, which Cyon Research analyzed in depth. This report focuses on observations of relevance to a broad audience. For instance, approximately 29% of the respondents reduced technical software expenditures in the first half of 2009. For the first half of 2010 only 19% expect further spending cuts, and even fewer expect to cut expenses in 2011. These figures suggest the worst cost-cutting is behind us, but there are potentially larger reductions hanging over the market if the global economic recovery does not come soon.
With nearly 7,000 participants in North America, and more than 8,000 product downloads to date, the Autodesk Assistance Program is now available in Europe. Launched in North America in April, the program was designed to help displaced workers in the architecture, engineering, design, and manufacturing industries maintain and develop their 3D design technology skills and help improve their employability in a down economy. The program is now available in Northern Europe, and will continue to roll out to the rest of Europe, Mexico and Brazil over the next few months. For more information about the Autodesk Assistance Program visit
At SIGGRAPH 2009, NVIDIA introduced the NVIDIA OptiX ray tracing engine, part of a suite of application acceleration engines for software developers. NVIDIA acceleration engines make it possible to incorporate high-performance capabilities into applications, while simultaneously reducing development time. NVIDIA application acceleration engines included:
NVIDIA OptiX engine for real-time ray tracing
NVIDIA SceniX engine for managing 3D data and scenes
NVIDIA CompleX engine for scaling performance across multiple GPUs
NVIDIA PhysX 64-bit engine for real-time, hyper-realistic physical and environmental effects
As the world's first interactive ray tracing engine to leverage the GPU, the NVIDIA OptiX engine is a programmable ray tracing pipeline enabling software developers to bring high levels of realism to their applications using traditional C programming. By tapping into the massively parallel computing power of NVIDIA Quadro processors, the OptiX engine greatly accelerates the ray tracing used across a spectrum of disciplines, including: photorealistic rendering, automotive styling, acoustical design, optics simulation, volume calculations and radiation research.
Dassault Systèmes announced that 3D models hosted on the 3DVIA.com library, including those created using the company’s free 3DVIA Shape modeling application, will now be automatically converted to both Dassault Systèmes’ 3DXML format and the COLLADA open 3D format (.dae format) created by the Khronos Group. The addition of COLLADA support further connects the 3DVIA product lineup to the wide range of digital content creation (DCC) software and applications that also support the .dae format. 3DVIA.com is an online community where over 110,000 registered 3D artists, application developers and enthusiasts from around the world interact with one another, learn from 3D experts and
exchange their own 3D creations online through the 3DVIA interactive viewer. 3DVIA already supports the uploading and sharing of 3D models in many popular file formats, including: .3dxml, .3ds, .obj, .kmz, .iges and .step. To support the COLLADA announcement, the site has converted all existing 15,000 public models over to the .dae format and will automatically convert and store any new models published to the public warehouse in both formats.
Fonix Speech, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fonix Corp., specializing in embedded speech interfaces for mobile devices, handheld electronic products, video game systems, and processors, announced a license of Fonix VoiceIn 4.2 to Autodesk. “Future product development and deliverables will be announced during the normal course of market product announcements," said Roger D. Dudley, Fonix CEO. “We value the opportunity to embed our speech software with an Autodesk solution.” Fonix VoiceIn 4.2 is available on Windows 32/64, Linux 32/64, Windows Mobile, Apple iPhone 3.0 and other OS and embedded hardware platforms. VoiceIn 4.2 is available in English, Spanish, French, Italian,
German, Japanese and Korean.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.