Oxford Who’s Who has inducted Cheryl Wirkus into the highest Professional Distinction “Top Tier of Excellence Lifetime Achievement Recognition” due to her leadership in Ironworking. Her skills of expertise comprises of physically demanding work. Throughout the years Cheryl has acquired many skills such as unloading trucks of steel, signaling cranes to hoist materials into place, detailing, decking, welding, structural erection, bolt up, rigging, blueprint reading, installing handrail and installing safety nets just to name a few. Cheryl Wirkus is one of few special honorees distinguished based on her professional accomplishments, academic achievements, years of service, and the credentials she has provided. Ms. Wirkus is a dedicated, hard worker who is passionate about her projects and has truly proven her expertise in the field of ironworking.
In the beginning, Cheryl Wirkus felt as though she had to prove herself, to feel like she had to fight for respect at work. The more she worked with her male counterparts at work, the more they were able to see that she worked every bit as hard as they did, got just as dirty, and smelled just as bad at the end of a long, hard day. After being laid off from CASE manufacturing in 1999, where Cheryl worked as a welder on the tractor cab line, a construction crew suggested that she consider becoming an ironworker and that she’d be a great fit. Signing up for an apprenticeship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cheryl was ready for an exciting road ahead of her in an entirely new field that she was confident she could do well. “I love being outdoors and never having to be at the same job for a long period of time,” the Wisconsin native said. “Being able to go from one new jobsite to another, I get to establish a wonderful network of new friends all the time. She worked alongside more experienced ironworkers who have a lot of knowledge and have been around long enough to know the best and safest way to get the job done, I’ve been fortunate to have so many of them help me over the years, too.” Enjoying the latitude that such a non-traditional job has to offer her, Cheryl works as an ironworker for Local 8 out of Milwaukee. Although each job varies, she typically helps to erect columns, beams, girders, trusses, and joists on any given day, connecting them together by either bolting them up or welding them. On some jobs she may have to work with the crane operators by rigging up the iron and using the proper crane signals for the crane operator to hoist the iron into place. A Safety Trained Supervisor for Construction (STSC) since 2015, Cheryl will soon help train fellow ironworkers at her local’s hall to become STSC’s. Throughout her career, some of Cheryl’s most notable works have included the Milwaukee Art Museum with a moveable sunscreen and a 217-foot wingspan that folds and unfolds, the Wisconsin Center, one of the world’s most architecturally exhilarating and technologically robust convention facilities in downtown Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Brewer Stadium, which has a seven-panel retractable roof that opens and closes, three power plants, and she is currently working on a 32-story high rise in Milwaukee. She also worked on a new nuclear construction power plant in South Carolina, for four-and-a-half years as a warehouse foreman. Cheryl is a member of Women in Nuclear where she served on their committee as a new Craft Member Coordinator for three years while living in South Carolina. She has also participated in several Women in Hard Hats expos for the Milwaukee area to help recruit women into iron working. An avid volunteer, she has lent a hand with the American Cancer Society and, together with her husband Mike, spent the last four years doing volunteer work with the Freedom and Hope Foundation in South Carolina. With two associate’s degrees under her belt, Cheryl is now working on her Bachelor’s in Occupational Safety and Health.