“I owe a lot to the guys at my union – UA Local 170 – who’ve taught me a lot of what I needed to know to compete at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC),” says Austen Nelson, a steamfitter/pipefitter apprentice from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Nelson was one of roughly 10 steamfitter/pipefitter apprentices from across Canada who competed at the 21stSCNC in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from May 27-30, 2015. For a guy who’s been working with his hands on pipefitting projects since he was 16 years old, it might seem like the trade comes naturally to him, but without the encouragement of his union he might not have considered competing.
“They’re really good to me. It’s like working with your brothers – they teach you while you work,” he explains. “We all relate to one another, regardless of what local we’re from, because we’re all part of the same community.”
At the SCNC, judges gave pipefitters two days and 12 hours to work on a pipefitting project. Competitors were evaluated on how well the pipe system worked and if it held pressure. The time constraints were the biggest struggle for Nelson but he worked hard and applied the knowledge his brothers in Local 170 taught him to finish.
Nelson says starting in the trade at a young age has helped him become successful because it has helped him gain experience. He tells other apprentices to “start as young as possible, work hard and dedicate time to your job. It can be hard, but the skills you learn and the people you meet will be with you for life.”At 20 years old, Nelson lives in Vancouver and works full-time at out-of-town camp jobs. He has lived and worked across B.C. and Alberta. “Initially it was hard, but you have to move to where the jobs are,” he explains. “You have to prove yourself to move forward and that’s what I am doing. Plus I get to travel and do work I enjoy.”
“I’m going to stick with the union for life. I appreciate what my Local brothers do and how they help me. And one day I’ll give back too.”