Generational diversity


Downer’s Graduate program has been the cornerstone of our generational diversity focus since its inception in 2017. It is a two-year program in which graduates undertake rotations and gain experience across the Downer Group.

In FY20, the program continued to grow. It is now embedded in our strategic talent and capability development strategy and has matured in both process and organisational capability.

The aim of our Graduate program is to attract high calibre talent and build a rich and diverse pipeline of future leaders. The 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 broadened the scope 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 further develop their skills and broaden their network. 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 recruitment campaign for the 2020 graduate program attracted 3,518 applications. We offered places to 64 candidates, 22 per cent of whom were female
  • Of the current cohort of 76 graduates, 25 per cent are female
  • Of the 23 alumni of the program, 22 have been placed into ongoing employment, 52 per cent of whom are female
  • In 2020, the intake for Downer New Zealand’s Engineering Graduate program was 47 per cent female.

One of Downer’s four Pillars is Thought Leadership, and a key element of this Pillar is to seek diversity of thought. Downer’s 2019 and 2020 Australian graduate cohorts are a diverse bunch.

  • 38 per cent were born overseas
  • 79 per cent consider English to be their second language
  • 21 per cent are of Asian descent, 11 per cent European and 10 per cent are from the Middle East
  • 36 per cent are the first generation in their family to hold a university degree.

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 talent program is 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.


Downer’s trade-based skills apprenticeship program covers a broad spectrum of trades including electrical, civil construction, mechanical fitters, air-conditioning and refrigeration, plumbers, carpenters, chefs and mobile plant technology.

Downer’s apprenticeship programs are specifically designed to deliver the high standard of learning required to gain a trade qualification. They provide apprentices with project-based and operational environments to combine their formal learning with broad, challenging and interesting on-the-job experience.

Downer currently manages approximately 450 apprentices across the Group 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 in both their trade and as mentoring leaders within Downer. Apprentices are inducted into the business setting and given access to the broad range of employee benefits as well as our Employee Assistance Program.

School leavers

Our New Zealand business has an ageing employee demographic, which is compounded by nationwide 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 essential. 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. 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.

In FY20, Downer brought 26 rangatahi (young Māori people) into the business through the Whakatipu Tēt kura program.