Clarisse Orchard in her welding PPE. Image: Think Big Agency

For some, the path to the resources industry is clear cut, but for others it can be a case of taking the road less travelled. For Clarisse Orchard, it was her passion for creating things by hand that eventually led her to the position and industry she thrives in.

Following her high school graduation, Ms Orchard found herself at a crossroads, trying to determine the path she wanted to take.

“When faced with what I wanted to do with my life after graduating, I was guided down the path of university by my parents, but the only thing that stood out to me was how much I enjoyed welding in high school.”

For Ms Orchard, it was the appeal of developing hands-on skills that allowed her to create things from scratch that initially led her to pursue a welding career and, unknowingly, introduced her to a mining and resources position, which Ms Orchard said she is currently in and “loving”.

Getting started

Ms Orchard began her career in the resources industry as a trade assistant.

“I worked in many hands-on roles within the business – from general workshop duties to maintenance and assisting in
the busy store area with packaging, receivals and dispatch of finished goods.”

Even though these roles were not necessarily what Ms Orchard had initially pictured for herself, she tackled them with a can-
do attitude in the hopes that the business would recognise her potential.

“When they did, I was offered an apprenticeship as a heavy boilermaker which lasted for four years, during which I gained the hands-on and engineering skills that allowed me to excel further in my chosen career.”

A year after the completion of her apprenticeship and following many site visits for shut-downs, the company Ms Orchard was working at went through an organisational change. The change opened a vacancy for a Technical Process Specialist (TPS) who would work through all stages of projects, from front end assessment and quoting to job planning, management and close-out.

“I believe my perseverance and dedication early in my career set me up for the dynamic role as a TPS,” Ms Orchard said.

Tackling common challenges

Though her career path may be different from other women in the industry, Ms Orchard said that the biggest challenges she’s had to face are likely similar to those of her peers.

“We face clichéd stereotypes based around women in mining. The focus is put on women to ‘man up’ and prove themselves when compared to their male colleagues.

“From the beginning of my journey to where I am now, there has always been a battle of showing who I am and what I can do to ensure that my value is seen as the same as everyone else.”

Where other women may find the transition to a male- dominated field confronting, through her years in the industry, Ms Orchard feels she has found her place despite the obstacles she’s faced.

“This was my first job coming out of high school, so this is all I know.

“Working with male colleagues has had its challenges – like having to prove my capabilities daily, changing my natural conflict responses to better suit my male coworkers, changing my physical attributes to suit the role’s demands and always comparing myself to a physical gender difference that is apparent in everything we do.

“At times, to overcome obstacles in the last decade, I have had to think like a man, act like a man and talk like a man. If I didn’t learn to adapt, I wouldn’t have been able to survive in this industry.”

Paving the way

Alongside the challenges she faced in her career are some tremendous highlights and the opportunity to lay the foundation for other women entering the industry. When asked to nominate a career highlight, for Ms Orchard, it was a cinch.

“The highlights of my career are successfully earning my boilermaker certification and being a finalist in the Women of Resources Awards for 2024.”

Ms Orchard said that being nominated in a category which celebrates her progression in her trade after all she’s been through was such an amazing feeling.

“The nomination took me by surprise because I never knew the journey that I had been on was such an inspiration to other women. It made me very proud of my achievements. The recognition this award created was terrific and it has positively impacted my career and self-esteem in many ways.”

Using the new platform the nomination awarded her, Ms Orchard hopes to encourage other young women wanting to start a trade in mining, but also enable them to have realistic expectations about their future working environment.

“You will be doubted. You will be judged. You will be assessed more than your male colleagues. But you will also find strength in the tough times; you will find pride in yourself as you progress.

“You will develop lifelong skills that you can carry in and out of work that you never thought you could achieve because you pushed past all of the roadblocks and made it to the other side.

“Through your pride and strength others will be proud of you, too – even the men.”

The knowledge that her achievements as a woman in her career are rare helps motivate Ms Orchard to persevere in the industry.

“To look back at what it has taken for me to get to this point serves as its own encouragement to keep going because every time I have failed or been rejected it has given me the opportunity to better myself.

“My colleagues at Callidus Welding Solutions have been a huge support to me throughout my trade and at times helped me find the drive to keep continuing on.”

Although being exposed to the trade industry as a young high schooler gave her some insight into what life would be like if she pursued a trade, Ms Orchard said she didn’t get the chance to witness the mining work culture for women and the expectations that came with getting a trade.

This kind of exposure, Ms Orchard said, would be helpful for the young female generation and she suggested establishing programs that bring industry leaders into high schools to speak to the young women about the industry.

“Educate them on the pros and cons, what they can expect and how they can overcome those challenges. We can encourage our female youth to go out there and get a job in mining without fear or doubt.”

Featured image: Clarisse Orchard in her welding PPE. Image: Think Big Agency 


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