Jillian Cowley of Bradford White Water Heaters

Skills of the Trade

As a welder for Bradford White Water Heaters, Jillian Cowley is forging her own path in a male-dominated field


For Jillian Cowley, a welder at the Bradford White Water Heaters Middleville, MI plant, life is coming full circle. Born and raised in the west side of Michigan, Jillian currently lives close to where she and her husband grew up, and her children attend the same school district.

Yet Jillian is also forging her own path. As “the tomboy of the family,” Jillian enjoys the great outdoors, hunting, fishing, camping, kayaking and searching for morels, and is now following her passion for the skilled trades – an often male-dominated space.

As a welder, Jillian enjoys surprising people with her career path, finding her joy and purpose along the way.




When did an interest in welding begin, and what was your path toward this career?

I’ve always had an interest in different trades, and I’ve seen welding as an art using the skills I’ve learned as well as techniques. Being a woman welder still gives me joy, especially the look on some people’s faces when they find out what career I chose. It is a male-dominated trade. When I first learned to MIG (metal inert gas) weld it felt natural and easy. That’s rare for most people. I feel I’ve grown as a welder by paying close attention to detail and accepting constructive criticism. I’ve also received additional training at Bradford White such as a welding safety class followed by a welding competency test that involves welding a tank and ensuring that it is watertight by air testing. I also trained for the Residential Welding Excellence (RWE) test which involves stricter standards, and I am a member of the RWE board.


Have you faced challenges along this career path and if so, how did you overcome them?

Learning a new trade can be intimidating and for a woman in welding, it was challenging at first.  However, I have demonstrated my abilities and continue to learn and grow and I am excited to share my passion for this trade with other women and men.




How long have you been with Bradford White, and can you describe what your workday is like?

I have worked at Bradford White Corporation for five years and the last four and a half years as a welder. About three years ago I was chosen to help train other employees who have taken an interest in welding, which I enjoy. My typical day consists of working on the production floor, and at times I provide training to new operators and assist with administering RWE tests. I am a member of the board, which also includes participating in monthly meetings with our members to discuss areas of improvement.


Can you speak to the growing interest and need for training programs in trades like welding?

I would love to see more companies offer skilled trades training, and welding is a great, high-demand career choice. It would be exciting to see the skilled trades pushed as hard as a high-cost college degree. There will always be a need for skilled trades in this world and the products that our craftspeople at Bradford White build in Middleville, MI are essential for families.