What it does: Builds things
Staff stats: Around 19,000 staff, mainly based in Australia and New Zealand
The good bits: Flexibility, opportunities for professional development
The not so good bits: Not as many young staff
The Downer Group story
In 1933 Arnold Downer founded Downer & Co, an engineering and construction business that was soon providing large-scale public and private infrastructure throughout New Zealand. Over the next six decades, it merged with or acquired some similar companies. It also purchased the civil construction arm of the New Zealand Ministry of Works & Development when it was privatised in 1996. The company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1998. It subsequently went on to buy Tenix’s construction assets and BP’s Bitumix, a road-sealing business. In 2001, Downer merged with Evan Deakin Industries, an Australian engineering company and shipbuilder.
The company is now headquartered in Sydney and most of its work continues to be in Australia and New Zealand. But it has made inroads throughout the Asia-Pacific region and even completed projects in South America and Southern Africa. It services customers in the following industries: Transport Services; Technology and Communications Services; Utilities Services; Engineering, Construction and Maintenance (EC&M); Mining and Rail. In 2016, it had an operating income of $6.56 billion and profits of $181 million.
Downer has a “commitment to supporting a workforce which is as diverse as the community within which it operates”. It also aims to maintain compliance with “legal and regulatory requirements including gender reporting and the flexible work provisions under the Fair Work Act.”
The company defines inclusiveness as “recognising and embracing individual differences in our workforce, including gender, age, ethnic and cultural background, physical ability and flexible work requirements”. Downer is currently focused on attracting, retaining and promoting more women, as well as more Indigenous Australians and Maori New Zealanders.
Downer has embedded a ‘Zero Harm’ philosophy in its corporate culture. This revolves around supporting the health and safety of its staff and minimising the environmental impact of its operations. Downer Group is “committed to the development of robust environmental management systems and resource efficiency programs that will sustain our natural environment for future generations”.
In 2016, the company launched a Reconciliation Action Plan. Among other initiatives, this set a target of having Indigenous Australians make up three per cent of its workforce by 2020. It also has a ‘Jawan’ program that sees staff seconded to work in Aboriginal communities. Downer provides support to The Smith Family, Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The recruitment process
Downer’s Graduate Development Program runs for two years. It involves structured rotations, regular development training sessions, networking opportunities and one-on-one executive mentoring from senior staff. It aims to produce “well-rounded, highly skilled professionals”. Aside from having a relevant degree, candidates are expected to be knowledgeable about what Downer does and demonstrate leadership abilities and emotional intelligence.
The recruitment process may vary depending on whether you’re applying to work in the engineering, finance, commercial or HR departments. However, you’ll probably pass through the conventional stages. First, you’ll need to make an online application. Then you’ll do a phone interview. After that, you’ll have to spend two days at an assessment centre. There you will take part in teamwork activities, face-to-face interviews and do a presentation.
Downer claims to provide “competitive remuneration” and grads report their salaries being at or a bit above the industry average. If your work duties involve relocating or regular travel you will be eligible for the relevant allowances. Other perks included novated leases or discounts on vehicle purchases or rentals, subsidised health insurance and gym memberships and cheap tickets to sporting events.
Downer invests a lot of resources in training grads and views them as the future leaders of the business. If you aspire to move up the ranks you’ll receive plenty of support and encouragement. That said, as you are promoted, you’ll find yourself spending less time doing what you trained to do (e.g. being an engineer) and lots more time managing people and projects.
The vibe of the place
The company is somewhat siloed meaning your experience will differ depending on where you’re working. Downer staff seem to not spend much time socialising after hours. Nonetheless, managers are approachable and co-workers typically friendly and supportive. You can also expect a reasonable work-life balance.
Overall satisfaction rating among grad employees: 4.4 stars
From the Employer:
"Downer has a proud history of employing the best people and working closely with our customers to help them be successful. Regardless of where in Australia you study, chances are that you benefit from the transportation, infrastructure and technology & communication services we provide millions of Australians every day.
Downer is a leading provider of services to customers in markets including: Transport Services; Rail; Mining; Utilities Services; Technology and Communications Services; and Engineering, Construction & Maintenance. We build strong relationships of trust with our customers, truly understanding and predicting their needs and bringing them world leading insights and solutions.
We employ about 19,000 people across more than 200 sites and projects, mostly in Australia and New Zealand, but also in the Asia-Pacific region, South America and Southern Africa.
We offer career pathways through a range of business disciplines (including Engineering, Finance, Commercial and Human Resources), where you will work collaboratively with the wider business to identify, create and embed value for our customers.
Our Graduate Development Program is a two-year program providing exposure to different areas of the business through structured rotations, regular core development training sessions, networking opportunities and one-on-one executive mentoring from our business leaders.
Commencing a graduate career with Downer will undoubtedly broaden your horizons. Regardless of your academic discipline, you will be encouraged to step out of your comfort zone and work with team members across all sections and levels of the business. Although you will ultimately be accountable for your own your future, we will both challenge and support you in realising your full potential and aligning your professional growth to our business objectives and that of the customers we support.
Downer’s ongoing success centres on an inclusive environment. This means we embrace diversity of thought and the innovative solutions it generates for our customers. Key to this is attracting, selecting, developing and retaining talent from a vast array of backgrounds and experiences, so we actively encourage applicants from all sections of the community to apply for our Graduate Development Program."