20 Jun, 2019
Angus Potskin’s story, like many that end up as a tradesperson, isn’t straightforward. When he came up through the trades, no outreach programs like Build Together or others existed to engage with Indigenous peoples. It’s true, that growing up off-reserve, Angus may not have identified himself with any of those programs anyways. As a kid, his father had encouraged him and his siblings to blend in, stop speaking Cree and forget about that part of themselves. Travel ahead a couple of decades, Angus is a licensed plumber with UA Local 488, a business representative for the Local in Alberta, covering the area of Red Deer to the District of Mackenzie, between the BC and Saskatchewan borders. Originally from Slave Lake, Alberta, Angus is of Cree descent from Saw Ridge First Nation and is the proud husband and father of six children.
Starting off in the non-union sector, Angus didn’t have a good impression of what a union was or what it meant to be a union member – that is until he joined.
“The lure of the union, initially, was the pay and benefits to raise my family, compared with the instability in the non-union sector. But it was the support of the union, who looks after the best interest of not just you, but you and your family, that got me hooked,” said Angus.
Today, Angus goes out and talks to students about the real commitment it takes to earn your trade ticket, and the opportunities that exist to earn while you learn through the apprenticeship program. Once you achieve your certificate of qualification or Red Seal in your given trade, you have it for life and it’s recognized all across Canada.
UA Local 488 and the Alberta Pipetrades College worked together to create Trade Winds To Success (TWTS), an innovative program designed to help First Nation, Metis and Inuit adults, male or female, who are motivated to begin a career in the construction trades. You can learn more about the program by visiting their website here: https://tradewindstosuccess.ca.
Angus’ advice for anyone looking to get into a trade, is to really do your homework on the trade you want to get into. Call the Local Union or Local Apprenticeship and Training organization to get a better understanding of the work picture and job opportunities and the qualifications needed to get into the trade. And for those that question why these programs still need to exist, “sit and be a participant in the Blanket Exercise, and you will gain a better understanding of why we’re where we are today and why these types of programs are necessary.”
“I am now trying to learn my path, learn my culture. There was always something missing, and that was my identity,” said Angus. “Because of the union, it’s helped me find my identity of becoming First Nation because I believe in the union, I have passion for the movement. And now I am working to promote inclusivity.”