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 between two and four rotations within their Business Unit and gain experience across the Downer Group. It is now embedded in our strategic talent and capability development strategy and has matured in both framework and organisational capability.

In FY21, the program continued to be delivered in a way that supported the graduates’ ongoing development. Throughout the year, online development sessions were delivered by a combination of senior leaders from Downer and external facilitators to build capability of our graduates. In November 2020, we undertook a two-day virtual conference which provided an opportunity for engagement, connections and workshops. It was also a chance to hear from Downer Executives about the importance of the program and about their own personal and professional lived experiences.

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.

The intake for the FY21 cohort was smaller given the challenge for some Business Units to forecast their needs based on their work pipeline due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

A thorough graduate induction and welcome process still occurred in February for our 2021 intake and we were able to host graduates at our site locations across Australia and connect digitally. This provided graduates the opportunity to meet Downer leaders and their fellow graduates and participate in activities and learning despite COVID-19 travel restrictions.

We will continue to undertake annual networking conferences and structured development workshops to provide our graduates with an opportunity to develop project management, leadership and health and wellbeing skills and broaden their network across Downer.

This program is guided by Downer’s Graduate Development framework, which includes graduates working side-by-side on current projects and contracts with skilled and experienced leaders and mentors.

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

  • The 2021 recruitment campaign for the 2022 Engineer Graduate intake attracted 970 applications, 16 per cent of whom were female
  • The 2021 recruitment campaign for the 2022 Corporate Graduate intake attracted 239 applications, 33 per cent of whom were female
  • Of the current cohort of 70 graduates in the program (including first year 2021 and second year 2020), 19 per cent are female
  • Of the 23 alumni of the program, 20 have been placed into ongoing employment, 25 per cent of whom are female
  • In 2021, the intake of Downer New Zealand’s Engineering Graduate program was 41 per cent female.

A key element of Downer’s Thought Leadership Pillar is to seek diversity of thought. Downer’s partnership with CareerSeekers, a non-profit organisation supporting Australia’s humanitarian entrants into professional careers, has resulted in refugees and asylum seekers entering our Graduate program. See A dream come true case study


Our Apprentice program is critical to securing and developing the necessary skills and capabilities required to deliver our projects and contracts.

We recognise that the apprentices of today become our supervisors and managers of the future. We work with our Apprentice Support Network Providers, State-based regulators, and TAFEs and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to provide opportunities for additional support for apprentices such as resilience training, mentoring support and funding programs.

Downer currently manages 411 apprentices and trainees across a broad spectrum of trades needed for the sectors we operate in, including electrical, civil construction, mechanical fitters, air-conditioning and refrigeration, plumbing, carpentry, hospitality and mobile plant technology. In addition to these traditional trades, our Trainee program extends to cleaning operations, warehouse operations, business, hospitality, customer engagement, water treatment, project management, civil construction, and leadership and management.

We have embedded The Downer Standard for Management of Apprentices and Trainees across the Group, which extends to supervisors, managers, recruiters and human resource business partners. This provides a certified and audited governance framework and standard and achieves consistent policies, procedures and outcomes.

We work with RTOs to develop a training program that delivers the necessary work experience and exposure, and contextualised learning aligned to current and future business needs, as well as supporting life skills. Apprentices and Trainees are offered the same employee benefits as all our employees, including mentoring support and access to Downer’s Employee Assistance Program.

Our businesses also develop bespoke programs within the local areas where they are delivering projects and contracts, which not only support our generational diversity goals but also support the local communities. Downer’s VEC Civil Engineering business set up a cadet program in Tasmania that provides on-the-job training for young people but requires that they stay connected to their formal education. It’s a pathway to an apprenticeship, based on the young person completing Year 10 with sound academic outcomes, and also delivering good performance in the workplace. While still completing their formal education, this gives young people a structured workplace learning opportunity that positions them well to permanently enter the workforce.