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. 

Trades students create tour bus for James Barker Band

James Barker BusFleming College’s School of Trades and Technology teamed up with the James Barker Band to transform a GO Transit bus into a tour bus. With the help of Trades faculty, Carpentry, Electrical, Plumbing, and Welding students renovated the bus to include bunk beds, a lounge, washroom, two dinette tables, and kitchen area.

“This was such an amazing opportunity for our Trades students, as it provided a real life industry scenario. It took the student completely out of their normal setting and img_7570required them to be creative at times and to think outside-the-box,” said Paul Jordan, lead faculty on this project. “It showed a student that you had to figure things out on the fly and be able to adapt or change as needed to make a concept work.”

The opportunity came from a discussion Paul had with James Barker, who is a friend of his, when James asked Paul for ideas on how to refurbish a bus into their tour bus. After brainstorming, Paul realized this would be an amazing project for Fleming College students.

With only a seven week time-frame and no blueprint (other than the layout wanted by the band), the team at Fleming’s School of Trades and Technology got to work:

  • Carpentry and Renovation (Techniques/Technician) students completed the framing of the lounge, bunk, washroom and kitchen areas. They also did the fitting and finishing of these areas, and installed the kitchen cabinets, counter-tops, and dinette tables.
  • Electrical (Techniques/Engineering Technician/Advanced Electrician Apprentice) students designed the electrical layout for the bus, completed all rough in wiring; installed receptacles, light fixtures and switches; and configured the battery bank and inverter into the separate on-board electrical system.
  • Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing students completed the rough in of supply and drain lines; installed the freshwater, grey water and black water tanks with level sensors; and installed the shower, sink, toilet, and hot water tank.
  • Welding (Techniques/Fabrication Technician) students completed two table legs for the dinette tables, made fasteners for anchoring framing, and built a steel frame to hold a battery bank and inverter. They also fabricated brackets to help anchor holding tanks.

Businesses that supported this project include: Bardon Supplies, Buckeye Marine (Bobcaygeon), Fleming College Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing, Great Canadian RV, Guillevin International Co., HB Cycle, Home Depot, Jackson Water Conditioning, Kawartha Battery Sales and Service, and Merrett Home Hardware Building Centre.

img_7559The completed James Barker Band tour bus features a lounge, eight bunks, a kitchen area with a sink, fridge and microwave, a washroom with a shower and toilet, and a dining area with two dinette tables.

“Without the tremendous support of the administration, faculty and students in their respective trades that were required to complete this project, this would never have been so successful,” said Paul. “This was such a positive project as faculty had students knocking at their doors asking if they could help out on the bus on their own time.”

Patti Gilchrist is one of the Carpentry Technician students who helped renovate the bus.

“I enjoy the work and I thought it would be interesting, I’d get to learn some new things, and be able to work with the instructors here with us,” said Patti. “Plus, I’ve motorhomed all my life, my dad’s taken us all over in a 40-foot motorhome.”

group-work

Patti Gilchrist (right) works on the tour bus project with her peers

Patti said the experience has been amazing. “Seeing it drive away knowing we all did this for a band and we all work so well together, I think it’s nice. And we got to know our teachers more,” she added.

Rod McLeod, Chair of the School of Trades and Technology, is proud of the work Fleming faculty and students did on this project.

“Paul Jordan was the lead faculty on the initiative and did a tremendous amount with the project,” said Rod. “Faculty members Susan Brown, Gord Knox, Jason Jackson, Rick Murdock, Aaron Lishman, and Darren Cavanaugh helped bring this to fruition and did amazing work with their students. It was a great project that the students truly enjoyed.”

The James Barker Band picked up the bus on Sunday, April 23 and has been using it on their Canadian tour.

“It’s been perfect. I know if we did it on our own it wouldn’t be close, it is unbelievable how great it is and how good of a job they did,” said James Barker. “It’s been super comfortable, it’s been great, I’ve gotten some good sleeps on there. We have an Xbox One set up in the back so we have that going, too.”

The band plans to return to Fleming College in the future for upgrades, and to continue this project and collaboration with the School of Trades and Technology. One idea for phase two is for Electrical students to incorporate solar panels for charging the battery bank.