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As a student at Crest High School, Lucas Mello discovered welding because of a partnership between Crest and Cleveland Community College (CCC). He took an introductory welding class at Crest and liked it enough to enroll in more welding classes at CCC. Through dual enrollment (now known as Career and College Promise), Mello was able to take classes at CCC tuition free. He took welding classes in the evenings, after school.

When he graduated from high school in 2000, Mello took a few more welding classes at CCC. He did not really plan to be a welder for the rest of his career, but he was smart enough to know that having this skill set could help him accomplish other goals. Looking back, Mello says those seemingly small decisions were life-changing for him.

“You have to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. You can’t just sit back and wait for things to come to you,” he said.

Soon after high school, Mello landed a job at a power plant as a welder. He has worked in the power industry for about 14 years. “I would not have gotten the positions I have held over the years without the skills I learned in those welding classes,” he said.

Today, Mello is employed by NAES Corporation as Lead Operations for the new Kings Mountain Energy Center. His duties in this position include monitoring, adjusting, and testing equipment throughout the plant to ensure it is operating properly and safely. In addition, he issues work permits and supervises the work of contractors at the site, controls visitor and contractor access to the site, maintains site security, operates site gas turbine generators to meet customer dispatch, and communicates and coordinates with the customer energy trading and transmission entities along with many other duties.

Although none of Mello’s many duties involve welding, he credits his welding experience with getting him to this place in life.

“It definitely set me up,” he said. “If I hadn’t gone through the (welding) program, I wouldn’t be where I am. Most people I work with have four-year degrees, but employers are starting to look at all you bring to the table.”

He points out one aspect of learning a trade that most people do not realize. It gave him the freedom and confidence to go after new opportunities.

“I have never been without a job because I have that trade to fall back on,” said Mello. “I don’t have to worry. If I lost my job today, I could go to work tomorrow.”

Paula Vess

Paula Vess has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. She serves as the Marketing and Public Information Coordinator for Cleveland Community College, and her favorite part of the job is telling the stories of students’ success.