Right now our school is offering Rhino, Solidworks and Form Z, but should I look into trying to learn something else like Pro Engineer or Allias while I’m here (currently neither are offered) or should I wait and see what actually is the norm after I graduate in a few years?
I would concentrate on Rhino and Solidworks and pass on Form Z (but I think exhibit designers like it). Learn how to build nice clean geometry and simple well lit renderings (probably in Flamingo) with those programs and concentrate on the design process. The portfolios that I see often have overly complicated rendered scenes that really emphasize the lack of understanding of form, manufacturing, etc… Design managers can see right through crappy renderings.
I use ProE and Alias everyday, and I know if a young designer has an understanding of Rhino and Solidworks, that they can be trained pretty easily to use any software. BTW I know small ID firms that use Rhino and Solidworks exclusively and their work is just as good as anything I can produce.
Look at the job postings on Coroflot and Monster.com. Most ID job descriptions state the preferred software that candidates will be using.
Professional needs in the future should influence today’s education…
You will notice that SolidWorks is the most popular in the job postings on Coroflot. I think that says a lot.