Mario Álvarez, Steel Detailer

Mario Álvarez (27 years old) obtained an EQF Level 5 Qualification in Mechanical Design and Fabrication in 2016 at CIFP La Laboral, Asturias, Spain. Three years after graduation he works as a Steel Detailer at  Inoxnalón, a steel detailing company.

Describe briefly your position
As a steel detailer I take care of interpreting the drawings of the client. We get some designs with the basic idea of what they want but with little detail for fabricating each piece. So, our job is basically to go piece by piece, to separate them, to determine dimensions, materials, quality… to break everything down so that our colleagues at the Supplies Department can order what we need and that the welders and joiners in the fabrication shop know that this piece is number 16 and that goes here.. We break down all the information that comes to us.

Do you use any special software?
Here we especially design in 2D so we use AUTOCAD. I believe that for this sector AUTOCAD is the best.

How did you get there (since graduation)? *
I finished my internship in July 2016 at IDESA and I said, well I’m going to enjoy the summer before I start looking for a job. On September 15th, the telephone rang. Inoxnalón had seen my CV and they wanted to interview me.

Had you sent them your CV?
No, they got in touch with my former VET School.

So it was your former VET school who put you under the radar of your current employer?
Yes, INOXNALÓN works a lot with my former VET School , CIFP La Laboral. The placement office there works very well. I had my CV uploaded in some recruitment portals like Randstad, Adecco simply to see what happened but I had not sent my CV to Inoxnalon. So in September 2016 I was starting to look for jobs in the engineering sector and the Rosi, the HR Manager at Inoxnalón called me to find out if I was working and if they could interview me. I came, I did the interview and after 10 days I started. I asked for 10 days logically because I come from a different town and I had to move here and find a place to stay.

Why did you enrol in VET?
I was studying a degree in engineering at the Polytechnic School of Gijón. I completed 2 courses in 4 years and I said to myself, all things normal, I will probably need four more years to finish my studies. So I decided to quit and enrol in a 2-year VET high-level course on Steel Detailing, obtain a VET qualification, look for a job and if nothing comes up or if I feel like it, I could always go back to Uni after.

Looking back, What’s the most valuable aspect of your experience in VET?
University was all about theory while in my VET studies you spend time in the workshop from the very beginning, you know?, you see the practical application of the things you learn. I learned how to use a lathe, and yes, a steel detailer is not going to work with that type of tool but it helped me to know what things I can draw and what things are impossible to do because I am aware of the constraints of the machine.
So I really appreciate the fact that teaching is way more practical and clear.

Is there anything that you missed when you first started working?
Let’s see, I felt prepared but I was overwhelmed by the daily hustle, there were so many things going on at the same time. Because yes, when you’re at school everything is easy, they tell you to do this, and you do it. But here apart from doing that at the same time you have another story going on. Look, I started doing a bit of steel detailing and a little bit of administration, shipments and so on and I think it is good to know how everything works, the whole process. In my first month I had to learn to differentiate customers and suppliers, for example. It looks easy now but back then it wasn´t that obvious. I came from IDESA where I had learned to do four things following the IDESA model. So when I got here, I had to totally erase the IDESA model and here it is completely different.

Also while I was at school I learned how to design using, Autocad, Inventor, but hey, they teach you all the commands but maybe not the specifics of steel detailing. I understand that it is impossible because students will end up doing a thousand different jobs in other type of companies so they cannot logically adapt the training to everyone

Would you reccomend your VET school to others? ¿Why?
Yes, the teaching staff were great. No complaints.

Are there any teachers / subjects that you remember especially?
Gosh, I don’t remember their names but definitely yes, the teacher of technical drawing, He taught SOLID software and he was really competent, really engaged. All teachers were very involved. There was also another teacher in the metal workshop who really went the extra mile to teach us even knowing that I wasn´t going to become a turner or milling machine operator. You look at them and what transpires… I mean I don’t know if they enjoy the work they do, but, yes, you can tell they are really engaged with the subject. Also, the facilities and equipment were really good.

Do you still stay in touch with your former VET School?
I still get some job offers from time to time. Every 5 or 6 months I receive an e-mail from my school placement office with some job openings. And, I really appreciate that. I can´t remember but I kind of recall they keep our CVs and contact details in the School Placement Office for 3 years after graduation.

Any other type of contact?
Well, yes, my former tutor visited our company with a new intern but that’s it.

Would you like to collaborate in another way?
I wouldn’t mind being called to share my experience with students at my former VET school., just as I am doing with you right now. In the end it is the experience I have and if someone thinks this is worth it, if they consider this could be a good example, I would be willing to share.

Thinking about your career, any plans in mind for the future?
I am happy working here. I wouldn´t mind doing any course related to the work I’m doing here. Anything. Right now there’s a lot of talk about TEKLA, a 3D program that all engineering companies are starting to use so, yeah, having a first insight into that software so that if a client sends some design in that format I might be able to process it.

Thanks for your time.

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