Our Downer Graduate Programs offer unique opportunities for you to build a solid foundation for your career. They're designed to provide you with the experience, connections and support you'll need to succeed in the industry.
The Downer Graduate Program ranges from two-three years in duration. By undertaking this program, our graduates enjoy a number of benefits, including:
Rotations through the business We aim to develop well rounded, highly skilled professionals by exposing you to the wider business before you specialise in one area.
Dedicated mentor program Downer has an established network of mentors across the business. As a graduate who joins Downer, your manager will identify and engage an experienced colleague who has time to meet with you on a regular basis.
Young Professionals Conference For our New Zealand graduates, there is opportunity to participate in our Young Professionals Conference.
Own your future
We know you put your best into everything you do - so come do it at Downer! Our New Zealand Graduate program offers the international experience, mentoring and diverse opportunities that the modern Engineering Grad wants, needs and deserves. Be the best in the industry. #OwnYourFuture #DiscoverDowner
Graduate rotation overseas: Simon's story
As part of the Downer NZ/ VSA Partnerships Programme, Simon Trotter volunteered as a Infrastructure Adviser with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) in the Solomon Islands.
"Before leaving New Zealand I was a Civil Engineering Graduate living in Nelson.
I volunteered as an Infrastructure Adviser at the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development in Honiara, Solomon Islands. I was there from March to June 2014 as a Downer Graduate, part of the New Zealand and Regional Partnerships Programme.
As part of my role, I worked alongside Head of Asset Management Henson Makonia to oversee the repair, maintenance, and upgrade of schools in the Solomon Islands - I was working closely with about 3 people at the Ministry. Some of the schools I have visited have been quite remote, like Ruavatu Provincial secondary school which needed a two hour motorised canoe ride to get there.
In the aftermath of the April 2014 flooding in Honiara, the Ministry assisted schools to maintain food and water supplies, repair damaged buildings and resume classes as quickly as possible, so I helped with that.
I remember travelling in incredibly rough seas in a banana boat loaded with the Head of the Provincial Government, the Head of the Ministry of Education, an Australian government engineer, a crowd of others and bundles of food and other supplies.
With just Henson and I working together, plus the complexities of the education system, the needs of the local community, and the major floods which struck Honiara in April 2014, making progress was challenging.
Around the time following the Floods, I was also involved in the Ministry-led evacuation of Ruavatu Provincial Secondary school. The remote Guadalcanal boarding school, which was home to approximately 800 students from all over the Solomons, was no longer accessible by road and after being inundated by flood waters was not fit for habitation.
The school’s two wells had become contaminated; food supplies and gardens had been destroyed. Students and teachers were evacuated to Honiara, where they were temporarily housed in an undamaged school before returning to their wantoks (family). The school is being regenerated under the leadership of a new Head of Guadalcanal Education Authority, who is calling for community involvement in its redevelopment. It was a challenge.
One of the achievements I am most proud of is the assistance I gave the Ministry in building a geospatial tool for tracking school statistics which assisted with their ability to make decisions around emergency response.
A definite highlight was supporting Henson as he spoke at a high-level meeting between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance. In attendance were both Ministries’ permanent secretaries, the Australian High Commissioner and the New Zealand High Commissioner. Henson needed the support of everyone present to carry out his work, and as a result of his speech the first steps toward this were achieved. Watching him address the room was a very proud moment for me."
Simon is currently a Contract Manager for Downer in Christchurch.
Interview courtesy of www.vsa.org.nz 2017 - check out their website to discover the possibilities of volunteering.
Employee Profile: Kristen Potts
When Kristen Potts finished school she wanted to study science – and she had a particular interest in forensic science.
But she quickly discovered she just couldn't stomach dissecting rats and other small animals.
It was time to rethink her career. She started work in a small law firm, progressing from being the receptionist to taking on some paralegal tasks. She changed firms after a couple of years and began working as a legal secretary, further developing her knowledge of the law.
A few years later she decided to take the plunge and study law at Southern Cross University, a course that allows people who are working full time to study online.
“I wanted to be a prosecutor.” Kristen says, “I think it came from my interest in forensic science.”
Kristen joined Downer as Legal Team Assistant at the same time she started her law degree.
“Downer has been fantastic in the way they have supported me,” Kristen says.“They helped me prepare for assignments and allowed me to take leave to study for exams – and they gave me great advice through some very stressful times.”
“Peter Tompkins [Group General Counsel and Company Secretary] and Evan Economo [Deputy General Counsel] have been wonderful mentors and the whole legal team has been great.”
Kristen graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with Honours in April 2015 and a month later was admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW to practise as a lawyer. She now holds the position of Graduate Legal Counsel and works mostly on matters related to construction projects.
“I am truly grateful for Downer’s support and for my new role because I heard at my admission that only one in five law graduates will be employed as lawyers.”
Graduate Profile: Sylvia Iskander
"The most positive aspect of the graduate program has been my involvement in the Waratah Train Project, which involved taking on a high level of responsibility and ultimately making a significant contribution to their success".
The Downer Rail Graduate Program has provided me with an opportunity to complete project based work in a variety of functional areas such as Project Management, Production, Quality, Compliance and Maintenance. This has enabled me to gain valuable experience across varied levels of the organisation.
Downer Rail also provided an opportunity for me to further my academic qualifications with a Graduate Certificate in Rolling Stock Engineering that broadened my knowledge base.
Graduate Profile: Zane Christensen
Zane has a Bachelor degree in Engineering (Civil) which he completed part‐time whilst playing for the Australian Men’s Volleyball Team, playing over 50 international matches, including the 2002 World Championships and the 2004 Olympic Games. While applying for civil engineering jobs in his final year of university, the Global Financial Crisis was in full effect, resulting in many graduate programs being ceased.
Zane then turned his focus towards the mining sector, hoping to apply his engineering skills to an alternate discipline. With this change in focus an opportunity arose to complete vacation work as an undergraduate with Downer Mining at Commodore Mine, prior to the completion of his Bachelor degree. This in turn opened the door to Downer Mining’s graduate program, aimed at engaging and upskilling young graduate engineers to reach their full potential whilst gaining a comprehensive understanding of the mining industry.
As part of the Graduate Program, Zane rotated through 2 mine sites, Wambo Mine (NSW) and Millennium Mine (QLD), working at each site as the Short‐term Planning Engineer and the Drill and Blast Engineer respectively. These roles provided Zane with valuable experience not only in his specific work areas, but also across the entire mine site as the Program outlined key areas of development including safety, commercial, technical skill, and management methods.
Upon completion of the Graduate Program, Zane then returned to Wambo Mine where he transitioned from a Project Engineer to the Acting Senior Mining Engineer within a period of 12 months. This role provided Zane with the opportunity to develop his management and leadership skills both within the Technical Services Department and across the mine site.
Following the completion of the Wambo Mine contract, Zane moved to Meandu Mine in Kingaroy, QLD where he took up a role as the Dragline Engineer. This role proved challenging due to Zane not having prior experience with the dragline, as well as the uniqueness of the mine layout. Currently, Zane is now Mining Manager for Meandu, a highly regarded position that proves that potential does meet opportunities.
Graduate Profile: Daniel Chaplin
"I started at Downer as an undergraduate engineer, now I work in the sales & commercial team managing some of the company's largest Rail accounts. In this time, I've had the opportunity to travel internationally to China and Singapore."
Daniel Chaplin, Key Account Executive at Downer Rail recently won the Young Rail Professional Award at the 2015 Australasian Rail Industry (ARI) Awards. The award recognises outstanding achievements by a Rail professional under the age of 30.
Daniel commenced his career at Downer five years ago as a Graduate Engineer on the Waratah Train Project. During his five years, Daniel has held several positions and played a key role in the successful delivery of numerous and high profile projects for the Rail business.
"I have found that Downer Rail provides graduates with the opportunity to explore different areas of the business to find your passion. If you show some initiative the Executive Team is willing to give you responsibilities well beyond what would be considered typical graduate tasks."
Explore what life is like at Downer as a graduate engineer in New Zealand.
Graduate rotation overseas: Charlotte's story
Charlotte Welch-Cropp volunteered as a Infrastructure Adviser with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) in the Solomon Islands in 2016 as part of the Downer and VSA Partnerships Programme. This is her story:
"Prior to leaving NZ I was working as a Graduate Site Engineer for Downer on the Russley Road 4 Laning project in Christchurch.
My role included assisting with the planning and organisation of day-to-day operations for the installation of the storm-water infrastructure, traffic signals, wire rope barriers and pavement construction. I was directly responsible for up to eight crews, each containing a minimum of four staff and related plant; this included ordering materials, traffic management, quality control, preparation of construction packs, designer queries and end of month claims.
Working on the Solomons
Whilst volunteering on the Solomons, my official role was an Infrastructure Advisor with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD). I was specifically in the asset management division (AMD). My role was to help in any way that I could to progress the construction of school related infrastructure, drawing on my construction knowledge whilst working for Downer. I provided assistance in creating tenders, obtaining contractors to preform works, site monitoring, imparting knowledge on road construction (as this was a new avenue for MEHRD), review of drawings, specifications and BOQs and contractor admin and training. I made it a particular focus of mine to look at the quality of the job.
After several discussions with my boss, we felt that the quality of work could be improved significantly through education of both the contractor and client. Another task I was assigned with was creating an emergency plan for the MEHRD office should an earthquake, tsunami, fire or flood was to occur.
I worked directly with four staff within the Asset Management Division and then loosely with six other staff.
Forming key relationships and friendships was crucial to creating a great working relationship and building trust. My colleague and Head of Asset Management, Henson, was super busy all the time, so I tried to help him out as much as possible to reduce his work load. I was also helping Roy, my counterpart, with several projects that he was looking after.
I would attend meetings and site visits with Roy and try and encourage him to the best of my ability. If we had a task to do, quite often we would both look at it separately and then discuss it after we had looked at it. I found this a successful method as we could both create our own opinions on how to approach the task and then go from there.
The most satisfying part of my assignment was when a contractor took on board what I was saying. I went to perform a pre-pour inspection on a Secondary School that was being built in Isabel; I issued six non-conformances to the contractor. We had a sit down session with the contractor and explained the importance of quality and how simple steps and procedures can lead to a better quality job. I also educated the contractor in regards to the effects that poor quality can have.
I had to go and perform another site visit and when I went there they had fixed up all of the quality issues and were really proud of their achievements. This made me incredibly satisfied and happy with my work and the influence that I had.
Another success in the assignment was that I encouraged AMD to look at the quality of the job first and not be afraid to reject poor quality. It is up to the client (MEHRD) to train the contractors as to what is acceptable quality or not. I also helped them to iron out issues they had experienced from past contracts through ‘lessons learnt’ sessions, the intention of these being to learn from the mistakes of the past.
The most challenging aspect of the role as a VSA volunteer living and working in the Solomon Islands was probably the heat and not being able to safely go for walks/runs outside. I missed having the freedom to be able to do these activities in the heat and feeling safe while doing so.
I was probably most out of my comfort zone running a meeting with a Solomon contractor by myself, as both of my colleagues were on training for the week and if the meeting didn’t go ahead, then the job wouldn’t either. Sitting in this room were five Solomons men who didn’t speak the best English and me, whose pidgin was four weeks old. We had a laugh and all was well in the end.
There are so many enjoyable aspects of living in the Solomons. I guess the most enjoyable would be getting to meet new people and experience a new culture and language. I felt that I created a bond with a lot of the people that I worked with. This was solidified when I got hand held by several of my colleagues. I felt like I was accepted. Also being able to speak pidgin to the contractors on site and they understood what I was saying (I think). Not only did I enjoy getting to know the locals, but also other expats from all around the world.
The main three things I learned living and working on the Solomons were: • To be grateful for what I have, living in NZ • Patience • Not to judge people based on social behaviour or appearance
Life on the Solomons
One of my favourite foods that I discovered in the Solomons was Nali nuts. I would roast them in garlic, salt and pepper as a snack or on top of fresh beans. Also fern cooked in coconut cream. Oh and a new-found appreciation for coconuts – although it took me a long time to come around to them.
The house that I lived in was with two other VSA volunteers and below us was another two again. I got on with them all super well. Among other things, we shared meals, movies, weekend trips and market shopping with each other. It was good to be with them as it felt like a little family that would look out for one another. There were also a lot of expats/volunteers from all around the world in the Solomons too, so it was awesome getting to know them.
During my time in the Solomons, I felt like I spent a lot of quality time with people and having conversations and hanging out like I have never before. It made me appreciate my surroundings and experiences a lot more.
'Island time' was frustrating at times, but overall you had to laugh. I was supposed to be flying out to Buala, Isabel Province, but the flight was cancelled as the grass was too long. They just hadn’t mowed it. How do you forget to mow the lawns so that planes can land
Back in New Zealand
Professionally, I believe this experience has helped me to become more confident in speaking to strangers and trusting myself. I wasn’t able to call upon other’s knowledge like I can in NZ, so I learnt to be more confident in my decision-making.
When I got back to work at Downer in New Zealand, I changed departments completely. I am now working in the Temporary Works Team which means I am in the office more. When I was writing the emergency plan for the MEHRD building I didn’t really know how to start, and it took me a while to get over the fact that I just had to start. It didn’t matter if it was wrong as I could just fix it. So it has encouraged me to just give it a go - in particular with designs now."
Interview courtesy of www.vsa.org.nz 2017 - check out their website to discover the possibilities of volunteering.