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Find the Time for Training

In our industry, Education and Training is an ongoing effort, or at least it should be.  Let's get real about our future. Whether you’re new to this industry or an experienced professional, time is passing quicker than it ever has.  Between events with family, friends, and volunteering, and keeping up with our personal technology, which seems to be evolving weekly, our lives are pretty full.  Are you keeping up at work? Are you trying to get ahead?

You may not be concerned with spending extra time learning about products you already use every day because:

  1. You already know how to use it
  2. You don't have time

In both cases, you're probably wrong. With some exceptions, most people do not know as much about their software as they think they do, nor are they working as hard or as long as they think they are.  

Knowledge

When it comes to knowing the software, most users get by with the basics—just what is needed to get the job done.  Over the years I have worked with a lot of people who use Microsoft Office, AutoCAD® or Autodesk® Revit® on a daily basis and have done so for years, but when I have asked about how to perform a specific task, they commonly don't know the answer.  How many times have you had a conversation with a coworker or an industry peer and described something you did with a software product such as AutoCAD that you both use and find that the person wasn’t aware the software could do that?

Many users work in their software today the same way they have for the last 5 to 10 years. Why is that? The software has definitely changed, so why hasn't the user? 

This often leads to the "I don't have time to learn new software."

Time

In the current economy it's likely that many people truly are working a full 40 hours a week and some even more, but during your working hours are you constantly working? While at work, how much of your time is spent checking your Facebook, Twitter, or personal email accounts?  What if that time were spent looking up resources on blogs, YouTube videos, or even in the help files that are included in your software?

Depending on your company, if your boss were to see you on Twitter or Facebook or on your personal Gmail you may get a warning about your workload, but if they were to see you watching a YouTube video about your software or reading a blog or help file they're likely to be more understanding—especially if you explain that you’re trying to solve an error or productivity issue. This also shows your interest in improving your work product.  Learning new features or tools or figuring out how to increase productivity with the tools you have does require an investment of your time.

When it comes to the “not having enough time” response, the reality is that we all have the same amount of time. How we spend it is based on our priorities, or "What is important to me?"

Importance

What are the reasons that education and training should be important you?

  • Keeping up with industry trends
  • Learning about existing features in your daily software (items that you don't currently use but would benefit from)
  • Learning how to use new features in the updates/upgrades you receive
  • Learning about new or different  products than what you currently use
  • Getting certified in a software product
  • Preparing to change industries/jobs

Clearly there are some reasons that education and training are important, but how do we go about it?

"Learn something new. Try something different. 
Convince yourself that you have no limits."

− Brian Tracy, professional speaker, author, success expert

Make it Happen

The reality is that education and training requirements and preferences are not the same for all users and include variations in access and learning styles. Fortunately, the industry addresses this by offering a diverse selection of training resources.

When many people think of education and training, they think of companies providing access to local reseller classes, in-house seminars, or industry events such as the annual Autodesk University (AU) event in Las Vegas.  Most people still love the live events because it is not only a chance to get out of the office, but it is also a chance to ask questions and network.  This is one of the biggest draws for Autodesk University. 

Unfortunately, as many users and CAD managers will tell you, this seems to be harder and harder to come by. Why is this? Many companies think that classes are expensive, they lose an employee’s or multiple employees’ billable hours during the training timeframe, plus they are paying the employee salaries.  Classes and events are often looked at as a huge expense, because companies are not sure if the knowledge gained will cover the costs. Depending on who you speak with you will get answers both ways. The value of live classes will depend on a variety of factors including:

  • Is the trainer knowledgeable and a good instructor?
  • Is the material being covered truly applicable to what the employee does or will be doing?
  • Is the employee vested in learning or is this just a day out of the office?

Live Training

Live product or task-specific classes given by experienced trainers can be very beneficial when timed properly.  Companies shouldn't send users to training now for software that will be installed next year or in three months. For instance, if there is a plan to do a major product update or software change out, it would be best to get the software installed side-by-side with the existing software or have it done while users are out of the office in the actual training.  This way, when the users return they can start putting their knowledge to work right away.  Large companies may require staged upgrades by group or department. Maybe a hybrid approach will work better, where select users get sent to training and then come back and work through the transition with the rest of the staff. Obviously in this case the selection of the user(s) is critical.

One popular live option for users, which is potentially cost effective for companies, is to send selected individuals to Autodesk University (AU).  With the variety of classes and topics covered, attendees can customize their schedules to whatever their companies or departments needs are. The cost to send an individual to AU with flights, conference cost, hotel, and expenses will be around $3,500 (this depends on the cost of flights and what are allowed expenses). This covers four days of what is basically custom training, as well as an opportunity to see where the industry is headed.

If there is a need for a more focused product training, local resellers may be the best bet. Resellers typically offer a variety of fundamental, intermediate, and advanced courses on nearly every Autodesk product.

Users who may want a more scheduled routine and instructor-led training have another option in Autodesk Authorized Training Centers (ATCs). With sites worldwide, the ATC network meets the needs of design professionals with flexible schedules and custom training for all levels of expertise and Autodesk products. See the link below to find an ATC near you.

http://www.autodesk.com/training-and-certification/authorized-training-centers

Because of the social interaction aspect of live classes and events these will always be popular among users. For companies, if planned properly these events will be an investment rather than just an expense.

So what can you do if these classes or events are not an option? There are multiple other inexpensive options and even more that are actually free. For an individual creating his or her own education and training plan these will likely be the first “go to” options.

Virtual Training 

Paid

Virtual training encompasses anything that is not live, in-person training. Web-based training courses and DVD video courses are examples of virtual training. Web-based training can be done live or at a time and place that is most convenient to the learner.

There are numerous options for virtual training that range from free to a few hundred dollars. If you are planning on staying in this industry consider any costs as an investment in your future.  Below are a couple I have used.

Lynda.com  ($19-$35 per month)

Lynda.com has all kinds of classes (not just for our industry) but there are multiple classes on AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, Revit, Inventor, and so on.

http://www.lynda.com/search?q=AUTOCAD

http://www.lynda.com/search?q=REVIT

Infinite Skills.com ($21-$25 per month)

Like Lynda.com, Infinite Skills offers online courses, but also offers DVDs on a variety of topics.  As of my last visit there were DVDs on AutoCAD basics through advanced as well as multiple versions of Revit and Inventor.

http://www.infiniteskills.com/

Free

Autodesk itself also has free resources for your education and training program. Check out Autodesk University online and the online “Learn your Way” database.

http://au.autodesk.com/au-online/overview

http://www.autodesk.com/education/learn-and-teach/learn

Full-blown formal product training courses may not be required by all users, especially long-term Autodesk software users. Tips and tricks, in-depth command “how to” lessons, and customization topics may fit the bill. For these users other educational learning options include YouTube, webinars—live and pre-recorded, publications, and blogs.

There are hundreds of YouTubers and bloggers who create content for your benefit that are free to read and watch. Although there is a mix of quality, there is no shortage of content. You can find nearly any topic you are looking for with a quick web search.

For everything from short tips and tricks to complete walk-throughs of commands and features, YouTube has a huge collection of end user and professional trainer videos.

Below are some sample searches for AutoCAD, Revit, and inventor:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=AutoCAD

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=REVIT                                   

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=INVENTOR

Below are a few popular blogs (there are sooo many more):

http://lynn.blogs.com/
http://cadablog.blogspot.com/
http://www.ellenfinkelstein.com/acadblog/
http://thecadgeek.com/about/

Of course, there is also AUGI. AUGI creates a monthly magazine, AUGIWorld, that you're reading now. There is an archive of these articles in the Library on augi.com. A quick search may find an article, written by a fellow user, which covers what you need.

https://www.augi.com/augiworld

https://www.augi.com/library

A new offering by AUGI is webinars. These webinars are presented by expert end users and Autodesk presenters. The live webinars are free to attend for all registered users, including non-paid membership levels. Recorded webinars are available to professional level members. I encourage you to check out this new feature at the link below to see what may be useful for you.

https://www.augi.com/training/webinars

Every year AUGI teams up with Autodesk for Autodesk University (AU) in Las Vegas. Through this relationship AUGI has compiled a large amount of previous years of AU content.  This material covers Autodesk applications, workflow processes, software customization, CADD and BIM management, and Tips and Tricks. The course material can be found here:

http://forums.augi.com/forumdisplay.php?1413-Conferences

I hope that you find some of these resources useful as you build your own personal education and training plan. If you know of additional resources your fellow users would benefit from that are not mentioned here, drop me an email at walt@functionsense.com and I will get them posted in a future article or through AUGI's social network.

When considering whether or not to create an Education and Training plan, think about the following.

  • Your future growth and development
  • Constantly changing technology requires constant learning
  • Don't get complacent
  • Don't be labeled as an old timer
  • Don't be that guy who says, "But this is how we've always done it."
  • Don't resist change—change opens new learning experiences. 
  • Keep reading books, magazines, blogs, and help files. 
  • Set learning goals
  • Get certified:  http://www.autodesk.com/training-and-certification/certification
  • Join a local user group

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