Indigenous studies major joins the team at the First Peoples’ Cultural Council


Kevin Perkins is on his third co-op work term with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC). Photo: First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

When Kevin Perkins graduates next year, he will have more than a year of hands-on experience in his area of study—and a good chance of a full-time job offer. The UVic Indigenous studies major is wrapping up three co-operative education work terms with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC), a First Nations-run Crown Corporation that supports the revitalization of Indigenous languages, culture and heritage in BC. 

“It has been absolutely incredible to work with the team at FPCC and to see how its Indigenous language revitalization projects are helping Indigenous people reclaim what was taken away. I’m so excited to come to work every day.
—Kevin Perkins, UVic co-op student

As communications and fundraising strategist with the FPCC, he has written content for the organization’s Indigenous Endangered Language app, helped coordinate education events and wrote a major a report on the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation’s initiatives from the past five years. Perkins was also part of a team who coordinated an event to announce a $50 million investment from the provincial government towards First Nations languages advocacy, education and revitalization.

Perkins is also a contributor to a major UVic success story: he’s part of the cohort of students who pushed UVic’s co-op and career program past 85,000 co-op term placements since 1976. The program is one of Canada’s largest, giving students the opportunity to alternate terms in class with terms working in paid positions with employers in their field of study. 

Changing careers and giving back 

Perkins returned to school a few years ago after an injury impacted a 20-year career as a Red Seal Journeyman in Sheet Metal. “I graduated at the top of my class from BCIT in 1990, and worked for many years, including five years as a foreman for one of the western seaboard’s most renowned building companies.”

He shifted from working as a foreman forty stories up to registering in Camosun College’s Indigenous studies program; while at Camosun he helped found the Indigenous Men’s Wellness Group—just one of the many ways he’s given back to those around him. Since transferring to UVic, he’s also been a LE,NONET research assistant for Christine O’Bonsawin, and will be one of the first students to graduate with an Indigenous Studies major when the program formally rolls out this year. 

In addition to his work with the FPCC, Perkins regularly volunteers with the Indigenous Youth Conference–Gathering our Voices. Youth attending the conference often ask him for advice about making career decisions.

I’m a good example that you don’t have to rush, and that there will be opportunities to make changes and try new experiences,” says Perkins. “Look at me—I’m 50 years old and so excited about where I am and what the future holds.
—Kevin Perkins, UVic co-op student

Embracing new opportunities

When Perkins started looking for his first co-op job, he wasn’t sure he had the skills for the position at FPCC. “My co-op coordinator Allison really encouraged me and gave me the confidence—she helped me see how I could really contribute and I’m so glad that I took the chance and applied.”

Towards the end of his first work term, the FPCC was interested in keeping him on, but funding was an issue. Perkins applied for a President’s Excellence Fund award, one of which helps local organizations hire co-op students by subsidizing a part of the student’s wage. “I was working on the report for the foundation at the time and the FPCC was really hoping I could stay on. That funding allowed me to continue for a second work term, which turned into a third.”

For organizations like the FPCC, co-op students like Perkins are vital team members. “Students take on complex projects—we’re a small staff so students make a big impact,” says Megan Lappi, communications manager at the FPCC and Perkins’ supervisor. “They aren’t just making photocopies; they’re managing major projects from beginning to end and connecting with community about the work that we do.”

Looking to the future

Kevin Perkins and Glenn Jim gesturing at an iPad displaying FirstVoices software
Kevin Perkins (right) and FPCC's Cultural Council Language Revitalization Coach Glenn Jim (left) walk through the council's FirstVoices Indigenous language software. Photo credit: First Peoples' Cultural Council.

Now in his third work term with FPCC, Perkins has continued to impress his employers. He has come up with the idea for an app that could be used to support Indigenous language revitalization (“it’s still at the idea stage but I’m excited that it might be able to evolve), and recently attended the BC Tech Summit to showcase the Indigenous Endangered Language Project. He’s hoping to continue working with FPCC if an opportunity arises in the future. “It’s been such an amazing experience,” he says. “I’m so happy to be working here and to have had this experience—the stars have really aligned.”


In this story

Keywords: Indigenous, co-op, community, languages and linguistics, employment, partners

People: Norah McRae

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