From Numbers to Sparks: Madeline Hertter's Journey into Welding | WKCTC

From Numbers to Sparks: Madeline Hertter's Journey into Welding

A Career Shift from Accounting to Welding Ignites New Possibilities and Passions

Madeline HertterMadeline Hertter knew early on that working at a desk in an office was not a great career choice for her. “I had been working in accounting for about five years and I hated the work life,” she said. “I knew the opportunities just weren’t there, so when I moved back to my hometown of Metropolis, IL in 2022 the first thing I did was sign up for welding classes at WKCTC.”

Madeline says she knows she is good at working with her hands, having helped her dad with construction work while growing up. “My dad was a general contractor and built houses for 30 years, and I grew up helping him,” she said.

Her interest in welding developed from watching how-to videos on TikTok and YouTube. “I finally picked up a welder last year, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Madeline is now working full-time for Ingram Barge and taking welding classes at WKCTC. “I take classes on Monday and Tuesday, then work four ten-hour days Wednesday through Saturday,” she said. In addition to work and classes, she is also a mom to her two children, ages 2 and 6.

Her work at Ingram consists of repairing barges such as hoppers and chemical barges. “We do anything from large cutouts to framing —anything to do with the structure of the boat if it needs to be fixed.”

She says that each day is different. “You’re not just a welder when you come here. You could be a plumber or a carpenter or painter, or whatever it is that day they need you to be to finish the job.”

There are challenges to her work, but she appreciates the results. “On the river, you are working with the worst metal possible as far as it being rusted, so it is very challenging,” she said. “The best part is you get to say after you finish something that you built that. It is like sewing with fire” she explained. “You have to have a certain finesse with your hand, or you will cut right through it if you do too much.”

Being new to the career and still learning brings its challenges. “The hardest part is not getting frustrated,” she said. “The thing that took the longest to learn was ‘washing.’ In your first classes at WKCTC you are taught how to cut and bevel, and we did go over washing, but I did not think that was something I would use every day. My first week here all I did was wash metal — which is removing the weld between two pieces of metal so you can separate them without damage.”

Madeline loves that she gets to work with her hands and says that she has done some projects for herself and friends, such as signs made on the plasma cutter at the college. Her goal is to travel for work after her kids are older, possibly working on structural projects such as bridges, buildings, or pipelines. She hopes to secure an apprenticeship with the Ironworkers Union as well. For now, though, her classes at WKCTC and working for Ingram are moving her forward in a career that excites her!