Generational diversity


Downer’s Graduate program is a cornerstone of our generational diversity focus and we continued to grow the program in FY19.

The aim of our Graduate program is to attract high calibre talent and build a rich and diverse pipeline of future leaders. It is a two-year program in which graduates undertake rotations and gain experience across Downer Divisions. Downer Group’s coordinated attraction, recruitment, selection and development leverages the scale of the organisation to promote a compelling graduate value proposition. While the program has had a keen focus on the engineering and finance disciplines in the past, we have broadened it to include IT, marketing and Zero Harm disciplines for the 2020 intake.

A thorough graduate induction and welcome process, annual networking conferences and structured development workshops provide our graduates with an opportunity to network and further develop their skills. This is guided by Downer’s Graduate Development framework, which includes graduates working side-by-side on current projects with skilled and experienced mentors.

Key statistics from the Graduate program over the past two years include:

  • The 2018 recruitment campaign for the 2019 graduate intake attracted 2050 applications, 22 per cent of which were female. We offered places to 40 candidates, of which 30 per cent were female
  • Of the current cohort of 65 graduates in the program (including first year 2019 and second year 2018), 37 per cent are female
  • Of the 18 alumni of the program, 15 have been placed into ongoing employment, 33 per cent of which are female
  • In 2019, the intake of Downer New Zealand’s Engineering Graduate program was 50 per cent female (nine out of 18), while New Zealand’s summer intern intake was also 50 per cent female.

Emerging Leaders

We identify talent we believe will become future leaders from all parts of the business and bring them together to participate in our LEaD Emerging Leaders (LEaD EL) program. This is our talent program designed to inspire growth and foster development in high potential individuals with less than 10 years of professional work experience. The program is part of Downer’s talent retention strategy and is included in participants’ Professional Development Plans to build leadership capability for Zero Harm, managing self, people and the customer. It also provides participants with the skills and knowledge to increase their commercial, financial and business acumen.

It is one of the most sought-after programs for emerging leaders who display talent, leadership potential and a commitment to development.

Our Emerging Leaders program had 37 participants in FY19 – double the intake of the previous four years – and will be further expanded each year. At the completion of the program, each emerging leader receives a workplace visit from the Group Head of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Steve Schofield, where they share a career conversation and set future development goals.


Arguably our most important talent pipeline is our trade-based skills apprenticeship program. This covers a broad spectrum of trades from the markets Downer operates in including electrical, civil construction, mechanical fitters, air-conditioning and refrigeration, plumbers, chefs and mobile plant technology. Downer’s Apprenticeship Management programs are specifically designed to deliver the high standard of learning required to gain a trade qualification. They provide apprentices with real world project-based and operational environments to combine their classroom learning with broad, challenging and interesting on-the-job experience.

Downer currently manages approximately 450 apprentices across its Divisions and works with several providers and training organisations in Australia and New Zealand during an apprenticeship cycle.

Our apprentices also receive structured on and off the job training, access to the latest tools and technology to hone their skills, coaching and supportive mentors who are experienced not only in their trade but at mentoring as leaders within Downer, induction programs tailored at setting and managing expectations, and access to the broad range of employee benefits as well as our Employee Assistance Program.

During FY19 detailed discovery and consultation commenced to enhance the strategy, capability framework and governance components of our program. This will better support Downer’s apprentices and ensure workforce planning is effective for the required skilled tradespeople and future leaders.

School leavers

Our New Zealand business has an ageing employee demographic and is experiencing skills shortages in specific sectors. Recruiting, engaging and retaining the best talent to ensure we have the workforce we need now and for delivery of our future work commitments is pivotal. To achieve our strategic goal of becoming an employer of choice for young people and Māori, as well as reducing overall employee turnover, we identified the need to target young Māori in both our recruitment and retention plans. To do this, we created a new program called Whakatipu Tētēkura by adapting and updating existing programs to cater for the needs of young Māori entering our industry.

Whakatipu Tētēkura is aimed at Māori school leavers at risk of becoming NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and consists of Marae-based residential workshops, pastoral care and a supported career development pathway.

Participants are permanently employed within Downer, supported through our In Work Success program and, where appropriate, Te Whanake ki te Ora.