Waubonsee’s computer-aided design and drafting program boasts strong ties to local industry partners

Waubonsee Community College recognized its Computer-Aided Design and Drafting Program at its December board meeting due to its strong connections with local industry partners like Fermilab, Entrust Solutions Group, Arco Murray, and Sterling Engineering.

"We're competitive, and employers know that because we've revamped our offerings to provide several pathways for students," said Randall Hines, Associate Professor of Computer Aided Design and Drafting. "We also have strong articulation agreements with four-year institutions and universities in and out of Illinois."

Waubonsee's CAD program offers multiple pathways for pre-engineering, engineering, civil engineering, and architectural engineering students. According to Hines, industry partners are willing to hire students even with one year of class experience.

Hines has been a faculty member at Waubonsee since 2013. He oversees the college's Associate in Applied Science in Computer Aided Design and Drafting degree and the Associate in Engineering Science transfer degree pathway.

Before joining Waubonsee, Hines spent 18 years in the engineering industry, having worked for several high-tech companies in the telecommunications industry. During this time, he held various positions ranging from tooling engineer to project manager to project management consultant, where he set up a project management office in the engineering department. In his last three years, Hines worked as a business development executive for a large IT company.

Hines decided to enter higher education because he wanted to design an experience for students where they could co-create knowledge and best practices in partnership with their instructors. Hines believes active listening is the best way to facilitate process improvements.

“We want students to learn how to apply the theory and think for themselves as they work hard in the design process,” said Hines.

In addition to his role at Waubonsee, Hines serves as a reviewer on the Illinois Articulation Engineering Major Panel. He reviews all engineering courses at the state level and applies his knowledge to upgrade and enhance the CAD program curriculum at Waubonsee. He does this by understanding what industry employers are looking for, what works best across the state, and where students are most successful.

"We've had many success stories through the years of students who earned a certificate or degree at Waubonsee and are now working as associate designers or junior-level designers at design companies," said Hines.

One such success story is Thomas Nelson, who currently works as a Senior Technical Specialist at Sonoco Metal Packaging. “I would say that WCC's CAD program has aided me immensely in the drafting-related areas of my career,” Nelson said. “The professors were always fantastic to work with and easy to understand. They were also very knowledgeable about the programs and ready to help students with any questions they had. It was a learning experience I'm extremely thankful I had.”

Even after taking just a few CAD classes, students can enter the workforce as they continue their education. Many receive a promotion with a high-paying job in the engineering field as they continue their education, which the faculty strongly believe empowers both traditional and non-traditional students who may be working multiple jobs or raising a family.

The program's reputation is reinforced by the local ties of its alums, faculty, and current instructors with active and real-world experience. Many of Waubonsee's CAD program instructors, including Waubonsee alumnus and adjunct faculty member Ruben Noceda, have once experienced Waubonsee's CAD program as a student. Joining Noceda as CAD program adjunct faculty members are industry experts Carl Fugiel and Luke Martin. The CAD Program faculty have a combined 50 years of teaching experience at the college level and 88 years of industry experience.

In addition to high-quality faculty, the program also boasts high-quality facilities. Last year, Waubonsee received a $40,000 Caterpillar Grant allowing the CAD Program to invest in industry-grade technology and equipment.

Waubonsee's Plano Campus is equipped with high-tech learning labs where students can study everything from basic drafting to rapid prototyping and reverse engineering. Students learn 2-D, 3-D, and parametric modeling using Autodesk products such as AutoCAD 2-D, Fusion 360, Inventor, and Revit. SolidWorks is also used to teach parametric design. The curriculum provides access to the industry's leading software and certifications.

Waubonsee's CAD Program is expanding its reach in the surrounding high schools of the college's district. High school juniors and seniors can earn college credit for CAD/Drafting courses either on-site at their high school or at the Plano Campus.

According to Hines, students who don't take related courses in high school are less likely to succeed in engineering courses later in their educational journey. Dual-credit students enrolled in Waubonsee's CAD Program can also participate in the Illinois Design Educators Association (IDEA) Competition to showcase their skills. In 2021, Waubonsee hosted the IDEA regional competition, and seven dual-credit students from Plano High School qualified for the state competition.

National labor market data shows that the employment of drafters is expected to grow by 7% from now until 2026. The average CAD technician salary in Illinois is $50,135 per year, while experienced workers can earn up to $61,000 per year.

To learn more about Waubonsee's CAD Program, visit

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