Apprentice Spotlight | Gavin Mckeown shares journey from UK to US to join the trades

Apprentice Competition Winner Shares Journey to Joining Local 250


It was about five years ago when Gavin McKeown, his wife and their kids left their homeland in the United Kingdom and ventured to California in search of his dream–a career in the trades. 

In 2023, McKeown placed 1st at both the California State United Association Apprentice Contest and Western Regional Apprentice Competition for HVAC. 

McKeown, now with Local Union 250 in Los Angeles, shares his experiences in the industry, the challenges they faced in competitions, and the benefits of being part of a union.

Can you start by telling us about your journey into the trades and your experiences in competitions?

In the first competition, it was me and two other guys. We ran through a series of tests in a short time period, and I emerged as the winner. Then, we went to a state competition in California, which was for District 16. It was a two-day competition with various tasks like driving, brazing and troubleshooting. It was a lot of hard work.

Can you share which of the competition tests was the most challenging for you and why?

The brazing test was quite challenging. You’re given a specific timeframe to complete a lot of tasks, and you’re not sure if you can finish in time. You have to prep everything, follow procedures, position materials correctly, and use the right welding technique. It can be quite stressful due to the limited time and interpretation of the requirements.

What drew you to the industry, and how did you transition from the UK to the US?

I originally worked in petroleum processing and production technologies in the UK. After relocating to California with my wife, who had a green card, I was looking for a career that allowed me to work on various projects, from piping to electrical work. The opportunities in the US, along with the appeal of working on diverse projects, attracted me to the trades.

How has your family adapted to the move and the changes in your career?

The transition had its challenges, like missing food from home and some homesickness. My daughter had to switch schools, and our old job gave us a lot of time off, so we used to vacation frequently. However, living in a beautiful place with sunshine has been great, and my family has adapted well, despite the initial difficulties.

As a successful union member, how would you encourage others to consider joining the trades or a union?

I would say that you get good pay and excellent benefits in the trades. You’re treated well, and the potential for growth is significant. Union members are treated with respect, which may not always be the case in non-union jobs. Additionally, being in a union provides a strong support network, a multitude of connections, and a sense of unity in your field. It’s not just one aspect; the trades have various facets, making it an eye-opening experience.