Part 2: Well-Paid Job with a Two-Year Degree, Two Success Stories

By KBJR News 1

May 17, 2012 Updated May 18, 2012 at 5:15 PM CDT

SILVER BAY, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - The Secondary Technical Center in Duluth is gearing high school students toward technical careers.

Its principal has a made a case for success through students obtaining two-year degrees and strong resumes.

Two former students are earning high incomes in their chosen field and what their dad has to say about it.

Doug Melander of Mainstream Fashions for Men has helped a lot of men find the right fit for their job. He says his sons are also enjoying the success of careers tailored to their skills.

"They happened to get into an industry that's hot right now too, so they're going to do really really well over the next 20 years."

The career path Doug's sons chose requires a little bit different apparel, a hard hat, ear plugs and goggles.

"I start work at 6 a.m. We have a short meeting in the morning," said Stewart Melander.

23-year-old Stewart and 25-year-old Phillip both work at Northshore Mining in Silver Bay in well-paying jobs.

"I'm seeing both of my sons grow very rapidly within the Cleveland Cliffs family. They're offered opportunities that I'm not sure would have been there just a few years ago," said Doug.

"I started out in operations in the fine crusher here," said Phillip Melander.

Phillip worked his way up to management and Stewart is doing maintenance.

"I work 12 hour shifts, rotate on night shifts," said Stewart.

"Their beginning was up at the STC program at Central High School...The STC program, without question, made Stewart and Phillip who they are today," said Doug.

"It really opened my eyes to that this was a different career path," said Phillip.

"It gave them the direction to go," said Doug.

"Through that STC program, they had apprenticeships. I got a job working in truck shop, working with trailers, semi's, did that all through high school," said Phillip.

"From there I went to WITC in Superior to the industrial maintenance program," said Stewart.

Phillip went to Hibbing Community College for diesel and heavy equipment.

"It was a very good deal for me. I was very fortunate. I got a lot of scholarships and grants," said Stewart.

"They were both employed either near the finish of school or very shortly after," said Doug.

"I got a lot of friends, you know, that went down the four-year path that it's a longer period for them, you know, higher student loan debts," said Phillip.

"I got out of school in two years and I'm working, where as I know a lot of people that are still in school and working for minimum wage," said Stewart.

"I find it amazing that the high school councilors are still and others are still pushing a traditional four-year education when 70 percent of the workforce is a two-year degree skill set, a technical skill set," said Doug.

While Phillip's school debt has been paid-off for a couple years, Stewarts is almost finished as well.

Neither brother would change the path they took.

"They both from early on were out in the back garage working on lawn mowers, fixing their bikes," said Doug.

"I've always really been interested in industry and mining. Pay and benefits were also awesome," said Phillip.

"I wasn't ever really interested in a desk job per say," said Stewart.

The brothers both say students should explore their options, when it comes to finding a career.

Phillip described some options.

"Automotive, diesel,working in shops, the whole mining industry in general, papermills, Minnesota Power."

"Try to find out what you like. Try not to rush into anything," said Stewart.

Phillip says it takes a strong work ethic and self-motivation to do what they do, and it pays off.

"If you asked me two or three years ago how much I'd be making, I don't think I'd say even close to what I'm making now, so I'm very fortunate in this," said Stewart.

The Melander brothers are both homeowners.

"Being out in the workforce at an earlier age, it gives you the opportunity to start building credits and start working towards being a homeowner," said Phillip.

"Both are very happy with their jobs too, which makes me even more proud," said Doug.

The brothers recognize they are in a good position.

"The workforce in this industry is aging. There's a lot of jobs opening up recently and this industry is really taking off, " said Stewart.

"The industry, if you bring them the proper tools, they will hire you," said Doug.

"As far as right now I'm actually happy with where I am. Obviously, I'd like to get to the top of the pay scale as fast as I can," said Stewart. "There's a real high demand for everything we're making and as far as I can see, it's not going anywhere.

"They're both doing so well and they're enjoying their lives so much and growing up so quickly and being given opportunities that I don't think many young men would have without the skill set that they brought to their employer," said Doug.

Skill sets Doug says has made his sons successful at a young age.

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