Staying Cool in the Desert: The UA’s Ryan Matsuba Goes For Gold

At the end of the day, there will be no sponsorship deals, national headlines and no hero’s welcome, but that’s okay for UA refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic Ryan Matsuba.

Matsuba is representing Canada this week at the 44th WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi. The competition will serve as the final stepping stone in a three-year journey that has seen the Spruce Grove resident successfully compete and succeed in provincial and national competitions. Matsuba is part of the 31-member Team Canada contingent that are arriving in Abu Dhabi, where close to 100,000 spectators are expected to attend the competition. In total, 1,300 participants from 60 countries will test their skills against international standards relevant to their occupational trade.

“I have had to educate some people on what exactly the WorldSkills Competition is,” acknowledges Matsuba. “The event doesn’t have a high profile here in Canada so I have spent the last three months explaining and educating my friends on the process,” says Matsuba.

The 21-year old journeyman’s goal isn’t adulation, but to break the various stereotypes that continue to surround the trades. “I tell people that trades are no longer a backup plan. They give individuals an opportunity to have good, stable jobs doing what they love to do,” asserts Matsuba.

Matsuba and 22 rivals in Abu Dhabi have 17 hours to develop a working refrigeration system using hundreds of elements. The mock-up they’re constructing is envisioned to run a small-scale rink ice plant. He’ll have another three hours to troubleshoot a faulty piece of equipment.

“The biggest concern I have going in is finishing the project. I know I will anxious at the start but I feel that I have prepared myself mentally over the past three months to deal with my nerves,” states Matsuba.

Matsuba has assembled the plant a half-dozen times while training during weekends since March. His uncle, Todd Matsuba, head of NAIT’s department of electrical installations, has served as Ryan’s mentor. The elder Matsuba has taken team members to World Skills competitions in England and Germany.

“I have been so lucky to have a strong support system behind me. UA Local 488 has been great in allowing me to take time off and prepare. That, combined with encouragement from my uncle and my family has given me the confidence to go overseas and just do my best,” notes Matsuba.

“The experience of competing at the world level and representing my country is something I’ve always dreamed about. Winning the gold medal would be super, but promoting and advancing the trades is far more important to me,” states Matsuba.

We couldn’t agree more Ryan. Well done.


UA Local 488

The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 488 was created in Edmonton, Alberta on September 11, 1904 by seven local plumbers.

For over a century, Local 488 has grown with, evolved with, and built Northern Alberta. Today, Local Union 488 is the single largest supplier of pipe trades professionals in Canada representing plumbers, steamfitter – pipefitters, welders, instrumentation technicians, sprinkler fitters, refrigeration mechanics, pipeline workers, and a variety of specialty crafts.

The cornerstone of success for Local 488 has been its unwavering commitment to industry training which has resulted in the Alberta Pipe Trades College – a world class industry training institution. In addition to our regional training initiatives, we have the ability to recruit equally trained individuals from our affiliated Local Unions across North America.

Explore a Partnership

If you would like one of us to speak with you, business to business, about the advantages of a partnership with Local 488, please let us show you how a relationship with us will pay off for you.

Call us at 780-452-7080 and let us know if you're in the commercial sector or industrial sector. 

Labour Supply for Employers

Local 488 has the ability to call on more certified pipe tradespeople than any other entity on the continent. We are connected to unions throughout Canada and the US with our American Red Seal Program and the ability to draw United Association workers from the US. 

Saving on your bottom line

‘Signing on’ to a union partnership cuts enormous amounts of time and money from your current recruitment efforts. And that saving goes straight to your bottom line.

Providing the safest workers

The United Association has a committed program of supplying top skilled tradepersons to our clients from Canadians as well as American Local Unions. Union members are the safest workers you can find, period. The first thing new members tell us when they leave the non-union sector is how amazed they are at the top-down commitment to safety – by both employers and the union – that there is on union job sites.

Standard for Excellence

"Our relationship with Local 488 has been long and successful. At a time when lots of contractors are having serious issues with manpower supply, our experience has not been nearly as harsh at it would be without the union. We're doing more volume now than ever before. The union Hiring Hall is an advantage, but the biggest advantage is the people at the union. We call them with our needs, and they work very hard to satisfy us. It’s very much a partnership. They’ve done their best to make sure that their product – which is skilled tradespeople – is the best possible. Their people are competent and capable. When it comes to the skills part of the relationship, their people are second to none. The union is very conscious of the quality of their product. They’re spent an enormous amount of money on their training centre."

Don Grundy, Arpi’s North

Sowing Seeds Across Alberta

Enhancing jobsite safety, worker conditions, and worker benefit plans are commitments that UA Local 488 has made to the men and women that bring their skills and talents to the job sites we represent.