Approximately nine years ago, a different market for the sheet metal industry began to emerge in front of Clinton Gowan’s eyes – fire life safety inspections and modifications.
This year, Clinton Gowan
celebrates his 61st year in the sheet metal industry.
Over the years, the
University of Houston graduate has absorbed a lot of information and history on
the sheet metal industry. He held virtually every job at Gowan Inc., the
company his father took over in 1949. He began as a floor sweeper at age 14,
became an apprentice by age 16 and a journeyman by his 20th birthday. Since
then, he’s also been an owner and, currently, the man in charge of safety and
old tin smiths to the HVAC sector – that has been my travel,” he said. “When I
entered the trade, we did all sorts of sheet metal work.”
part of the industry hasn’t changed. Approximately nine years ago, a different
market for the sheet metal industry began to emerge in front of Gowan’s eyes –
fire life safety inspections and modifications. Customers were coming to Gowan
for help to scrutinize and test the operability of safety measures in their
commercial buildings in case of a fire.
quickly realized, by working with local fire marshals, there was more training
and information behind the skills than initially envisioned. He asked for
training and marketing help from the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors' National Association and the
Sheet Metal Workers union, and a few years later, Gowan was in
possession of a certified, trained work force.
required a lot more formal approach than the industry had been doing. There were
people doing observations instead of true inspections, and there were problems
with the product produced by those just performing observations,” said Gowan,
past president of SMACNA. The local fire marshals
said Houston wasn’t the only city having these problems.
for the formal training to take shape and take effect was difficult for Gowan,
am at a time in my life where I don’t buy green bananas, and they’re telling me
to have patience,” he joked. “But now I think it’s moving in a very good pace,
and it’s being done the right way. In concert with the fire marshals, I felt it
was worthy of the time being spent to do it right. There were lives at
life safety is one of many new markets emerging in the sheet metal industry
today. Markets such as green building bring on a whole new set of challenges,
but they are challenges Gowan said he’s sure the industry can take on and
sheet metal workers we employ have more training requirements and more
diversity,” he said. “So, it’s easier for companies to pick talented individuals
and follow the new tech markets.”
fire life safety, Gowan doesn’t see the need, or the training, slowing down any
time soon because it saves lives of occupants of the buildings as well as the
firefighters sent inside in case of emergency.
it’s going to mushroom overnight. The need is there,” he said. “That’s what life
is all about – trying to build a better life for those who come
life safety is one of the many markets the National Energy Management Institute has identified as an emerging market in the sheet metal and air
conditioning industry. Once NEMI identifies an emerging market, the organization
works together with the International Training Institute for the sheet
metal and air conditioning industry to create curriculum for joint-apprenticeship training centers throughout the nation to teach.
life safety program trains technicians and supervisors to inspect, test and
maintain fire and smoke dampers, providing a much-needed service to commercial
building owners and occupants. The successful operation of these dampers may
mean the difference between a nuisance fire and an uncontrollable
Contractor finds niche in fire safety
November 16, 2010