Patrick LeClair – Bridge CADD Technician


Patrick LeClair

Bridge CADD Technician – Government of Prince Edward Island

I was born/grew up in: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

I now live in: Pownal, Prince Edward Island, Canada

I completed my training/education at: After finishing high school I decided to study Jazz at St. Francis Xavier University. Upon completing my diploma in Jazz Studies I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living so I applied to take the Architectural Technology program at Holland College on PEI.

Describe what you do at work.

As a Bridge CADD Technician I have various responsibilities throughout the day. My main duties consist of:

  • Preparing structural (bridge), civil (highway/Storm and Sanitary), property and environmental drawings with attention to detail while following provincial design standards.
  • Calculating drainage requirements and construction material quantities using 3D modeling software.
  • Creating drawing templates to create consistent and uniform drawings.
  • Inspecting bridges all across the province to ensure they meet safety standards.

Performing these duties requires me to have a good understanding and foundation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I use these skills and knowledge every day. As a Bridge CADD Technician I am required to have a good understanding of Civil Engineering practices and design standards to make sure all bridges and roads are drawn correctly. To create these drawings in a clear and concise manner I need to have an in-depth knowledge of computers as well as drafting and design software. At my office I use a program called Civil 3D to create all of my drawings. By using this software, I am able to create precise and detailed 3D models which allow me to calculate the building materials needed for the job. Designing and inspecting bridges requires me to have a good foundation in both math and physics. While designing and inspecting bridges it is crucial that I understand how loads are transferred through a structure. This allows me to understand how cracks and other defects occur and what to do to prevent them. It also helps me decided which ones need immediate attention if found during an inspection.

Problem solving is another important skill I must use daily at my job. There are different ways to design and build roads or bridges. I have to consider which methods have the least amount of impact and are the most cost efficient. This is not always an easy process and it involves working with various people to assess the impacts and costs related to property purchasing, environmental controls, construction practices, and community impacts. This requires me to be a team player. When working as part of a team it is important to be clear and concise, organized, and dependable. Doing this allows for strong working relationships which in turn leads to the smooth and successful completion of projects. Communication in my office is only English but I am studying French because I feel it is important to know and I believe it will open up doors both personally and professionally in the future.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect peoples lives?

Designing, drawing, and inspecting bridges and roads requires me to be mindful of the impact my job may have on others. This type of work often requires detours, traffic delays, property impacts, environmental impacts, and more. People living all across PEI depend on my team and I to plan for and minimize all inconveniences during construction, while keeping their safety as our top priority. I get satisfaction and fulfillment out of my career knowing I had a hand in the design and completion of various bridges and roads across PEI. It feels nice to drive over a new bridge or road and remember all the work that went into creating it! It is also a nice feeling to inspect a bridge and know that my work is ensuring the safety of thousands of people! When I see a bridge that I was involved with, it gives me a sense of accomplishment and motivates me to continue to learn and grow within my profession.

What motivates you in your career?

Every job I do has different factors to consider making each one a new learning experience. I get to create 3D computer models and actually see and show others what the new structure will look like before it even exists! I like doing design calculations and learning the building science behind bridges, especially when I come across a bridge I have never done before. I also love getting out to the construction site during and after construction to see the project being built. It is very satisfying to see your plans become a reality.

Being a bridge inspector for the province allows me to get outdoors and see bridges of various ages. I love getting up close and personal with these bridges during my inspection. I find it fascinating to see the deterioration of structures over time, learning why the defects occurred and figuring out ways to prevent the same thing from occurring in our newly designed structures. Working in this career has given me a greater appreciation for the roads and bridges that we use everyday and the work that goes into creating and maintaining them.

I take pride in my work, but I always remember that I don’t know everything. Keeping this realization in mind motivates me to continue to learn and better myself, there will always be room for improvement. My love for science, technology, and the outdoors makes working as a CADD Technician an exciting career for me.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

Growing up, I was always a hands-on person. I grew up in a 100 year old farm house in the country and loved to get my hands dirty. I did construction work, helped fix cars, worked on farms – but still, I didn’t consider the Skilled Trades or Technologies to be a career path for me.

My father is a precision machinist. I remember going to his work at Vector Aerospace on “take your kids to work” day and being so amazed! -But still, I didn’t consider the Skilled Trades or Technologies to be a career path for me.

Life went on. I had my first daughter, I graduated from university with a diploma in Jazz Studies and I sat at a call center doing tech support, buried in student debt…. It was then that I thought - maybe the Skilled Trades or Technologies could be a career path for me.

I started looking through programs at Holland College and decided to try the Architectural Technology program due to my experience reading building plans while I was framing houses in Alberta.

It turned out I loved it at Holland College. I loved the Architecture program and I also happened to be good at it! I worked very hard at Holland College which led to me winning gold at the provincial Skills Canada competition in Architectural Technology and allowed me to experience Nationals. It was amazing!

Upon graduating from Holland College, I decided to work with an Engineering firm called WSP. I worked there for a year and a half before accepting my job as a Bridge CADD Technician with the Government of PEI.

I love what I do and I never look back!

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

For fun I like playing music, fishing, golfing, camping, spending time with my wife and 2 kids, and traveling.

I now also volunteer extensively with Skills Canada promoting trades and technology across PEI and Canada. I sit on the Skills Canada PEI Board of Directors, am the President of the Skills Canada PEI Alumni Association, and am the Vice Chair of the Skills Canada National Alumni Committee.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Accept new challenges, step out of your comfort zone, don't stop learning, and be easy to get along with. Take advantage of opportunities that present themselves and allow them to spark new ideas, inspire new goals, and reveal undiscovered paths.

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