After suffering a stroke, John Sciara knew his body could no longer support the demands of sheet metal work. A veteran, union sheet metal worker, Sciara, 53, graduated from apprenticeship in 1992 and has steadily worked for 27 years. Not ready to retire from CS3, Inc, he took his skills from the shop floor to the company’s drafting department.

Computer literacy was his first step. “They didn’t have computers in school when I was an apprentice,” says Sciara, laughing at the thought. Then SMART Local 4 and the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the sheet metal industry, paid for more than 120 hours of training as part of his union membership.

“Older sheet metal workers aren’t typically computer savvy, so it’s not for everyone,” says Ron McGuire, BIM specialist for ITI. “But it’s an avenue to prolong your career. Running up and down a ladder at age 50 or 55 is hard on the body.”

In his new role, Sciara now designs the HVAC systems he once hauled to job sites. By learning to use BIM, he has not only extended his career but has also helped CS3 expand its market share, allowing the company to bid on more work.

“I am so happy and proud it worked out the way it did,” says Sciara, who was first introduced to the sheet metal industry by way of his brother-in-law. “I was welding 40 hours a week, duct jobs, metal roofs, you name it. It was thrown at me, and I sought those opportunities. They didn’t give you respect. You had to earn it. But once I did, I got the passion for it. I got to design it, fabricate it and install it. I think I’ve had as good a sheet metal career as I could have.”

After paying his dues early on in his career, Sciara says he welcomes the change of pace.

John Sciara

“It’s important to me the ITI understands what a talented instructor Ron McGuire truly is,” he says. “When I started, I was a stump on a log in Ron’s class. Being in poor health never entered my mind. I just wanted to learn something new and be better at what I do. I just saw it as an advantage.”

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This story originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of SNIPS magazine.