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May 27, 2018

Drafting students get firsthand experience at local companies who host job shadowing opportunities.

Not so long ago, in a classroom not too far away, an idea was hatched and the course of drafting careers was changed for many. Johnson County Community College students who are studying computer-aided drafting have a chance to voyage into “a day in the life” of professional civil, mechanical, architectural and design drafters when they participate in the JCCC Job Shadowing program.

There’s no pre-internship, no interview, no pay and, hopefully, no stress – just an experience to get a hands-on introduction to drafting by a professional who is excited to show you the ropes.

Building on an idea

Three areas within the College – the Counseling Center, the Career Development Center and the Drafting program – collaborated to make job shadowing a classroom assignment. At the helm were Damon Feuerborn, Associate Professor of Drafting; Amy Fisher, Career Counselor; and Linda Dubar, Employment Relations/Intern Coordinator. The main objective was to motivate students to focus on specifics about their major and gravitate toward an emphasis.

“Two semesters ago, we decided to make job shadowing an assignment in Drafting 135 Graphic Analysis, and so far, it’s really been successful,” Feuerborn said. “The coursework for this class is challenging, and at that point [in their education] it’s wise for students to make a decision about what drafting specialty they want to make into a career.”

The intent of every job shadow is to show students firsthand what industry professionals do during a typical workday. Victoria Mossman, JCCC student, had an excellent experience at Structural Modeling & Analysis (SMA), a Kansas City firm that specializes in structural engineering and laser scanning.

“Seeing the CAD programs actually being used on real projects was mind-blowing,” Mossman said.

Team members from SMA let Mossman get up-close to the details of a castle remodeling project in Nebraska. “It looked like we were actually inside the castle seeing the details on the walls and ceilings. They also used laser scanning, which can give you the exact dimensions of a building.”

Thirteen area companies are on board to support JCCC’s initiative.

  • Black & Veatch
  • Burns & McDonnell
  • Custom Storefronts
  • ACI Boland Architects
  • Automatic Systems Inc.
  • Bartlett & West
  • Henderson Engineers
  • Krudwig Structural Engineers, Inc.
  • Olsson Associates
  • Shawnee Steel and Welding
  • SPX Cooling Technologies
  • Structural Modeling & Analysis
  • WaterOne

More than a check in the gradebook

Even though it starts as a Drafting 135 assignment, job shadowing is more than a grade. “I’ve had many student who have participated in a shadow experience say that they think every JCCC student should do this,” said Fisher.

Here’s how the project works:

  • Students get job shadow assignments early in the semester.
  • They contact their assigned mentor.
  • They plan and then conduct the job shadow.
  • They present on their experience. (Some plan and provide PowerPoint presentations; others gamble on being extemporaneous.)

“Getting up in front of their peers in class pulls out their personalities,” said Fisher. “They surprise themselves many times, and hearing themselves tell the class what they learned solidifies their passion for their prospective profession.”

The experience is an effective way for “shadowers” to rule out one area of drafting over another. “They almost always talk about the team environment, the problem-solving and the use of industry language,” said Feuerborn. “We had one student who chose another major after a job shadow, and that’s OK, too.”

Grads get gigs

According to Feuerborn, JCCC can’t graduate enough drafting students to fill local needs. “We have a 100 percent job placement,” he said. “Many times, students are ready to walk into a job the day after graduation.”

There are numerous firms of all sizes and specialties in the metro area. And in many cases, students who are participating in job shadowing are checking out the company and being pursued for employment at the same time.

What’s out there for you?

Get into the nitty-gritty of a future day in your prospective profession. If you are a JCCC student who is at least 18 and has a 2.0 GPA, you can fill out an application to participate in the Job Shadowing program. Stop by the Career Development Center (Student Center 252) and get started. Take advantage of three placements per semester. Register through JobLinks and find out what shadowing experiences are waiting for you, and you may even run across a job opportunity!