Ontario Skills Gold medalist and Fleming Valedictorian Mark Melong strives for greatness

Mark Melong is ending his studies at Fleming College with two major wins: a Gold medal in Metal Fabrication at the Skills Canada – Ontario competition and the School of Trades and Technology G.E. Outstanding Achievement Award.

But the Welding and Fabrication Technician graduate worked hard for this, both inside and outside of the classroom, and is proud to serve as Valedictorian at the School of Trades and Technology convocation ceremony.

“The message that I will give to my classmates is to not settle for anything less than you feel you deserve,” said Mark. “Strive for greatness and push your boundaries to keep bettering yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your career in order to get to where you want to be. Above all, find what you love to do, because we spend almost half our lives working, so it might as well be somewhere you want to be every day.”

Mark was introduced to welding in high school and enjoyed it, so he completed his first-year apprenticeship during grade 12 through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). He wanted to learn more and build his resume, so Mark chose to earn his Welding and Fabrication Technician diploma at Fleming College.

“I had a ball of a time at Fleming,” said Mark. “Getting to know my classmates and professors was the best part about it all. By the last semester there was only about 16 students in the class and we were a very tight-knit group. We went through a lot in the past two years, so it made us become the best of friends.”

During his first year at Fleming College, Mark lived in Residence and loved the experience of meeting amazing people from different Fleming programs. Mark’s Residence Advisor (RA) inspired him to become an RA for his second year of studies at Fleming, and Mark said it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

“I gained so many skills that I never knew I needed,” said Mark. “The team I worked with was full of amazing and inspiring people. This made my second year one of the best years of my life and being able to go to the Skills competition at the end was the cherry on top.”

Mark attended Skills Canada – Ontario, Canada’s largest skilled trade and technology competition, during his second-year at Fleming. It was his third time in the competition, having earned 3rd Place in grade 12 and 7th Place during his first-year at Fleming. This time, Mark walked away with a Bronze medal in Welding and a Gold medal in Metal Fabrication.

“I absolutely loved going to the competition. The vibe of the whole event is that of prestige and pride in the trades. Being in a room with the best welders in college and going head-to-head with all of them is exhilarating,” said Mark. “Also, being able to hang out with your professors for three days is fun too.”

For the Welding competition, Mark had six hours to follow a blueprint to fit and weld metal pieces (that were cut to shape) using a welding machine. In the fabrication competition, Mark had an I-beam, metal pieces (not cut to shape) and equipment to fit and weld everything to the specifications of the provided blueprint. Both are challenging and competitive, so Mark is honoured to win Gold in Metal Fabrication and Bronze in Welding against competitors from other Ontario colleges.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling,” said Mark. “It was so nerve-racking waiting for the awards. When I heard my name called and I looked over and saw [program coordinator Darryl Madussi] with the biggest smile on my face, it made me feel so accomplished. After three years of competing, it was nice to win Gold.”

Mark said Fleming does a good job exposing students to the variety of techniques and accompanying theory for welding.

“The final welding project we did allowed us to touch upon many different aspects of the trade to see what we enjoyed the most,” said Mark on the fourth-semester Industry Showcase, where students display their pressure vessel project. “From that, many of my classmates decided where they wanted to apply for jobs and many of them got hired from it.”

Mark labels the Industry Showcase as his favourite Fleming College memory.

“We got all dressed up and showed off our pressure vessel project that took us 15 weeks to complete. We were all so proud of what we had built and all the skills we had learned,” said Mark. “To see the few classmates that I started with in Week 1, and how far we had come, made me proud to be working with such amazing people.”

Now that Mark has finished his classes at Fleming College, he is working at Chematics Inc. in Pickering, Ont. The shop builds custom pressure vessels for the mining and gas industries, as well as nuclear operations and other industrial applications.

The Class of 2019 graduate plans to gain more skills at Chematics and doesn’t want to set any long-term career plans in stone, as he’d like to keep an open mind and consider all the different routes available to him. But what Mark does know for sure is that he will strive for greatness, push his boundaries, keep bettering himself, and not be afraid to take career risks.