Women on Track was established in 2021 to provide a dedicated channel for entry-level roles in the rail industry available exclusively to woman. Downer’s Victorian business offered a full time traineeship with support through to a Certificate II in Electrotechnology to 10 women from Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs when the program launched.

Downer partnered with Hallam Secondary College, Holmesglen TAFE and Our Place to deliver the program, which combines structured learning with practical, on-the-job experience on the High Capacity Metro Trains Project at Downer’s Pakenham East Depot.

More than 120 candidates applied for the roles following a dedicated marketing campaign. Its launch followed 12 months of planning, including the development of the recruitment and sourcing strategy, bridging course and formal studies design and supervisor and mentor training.

The program is supported by the Apprentice Innovation Fund which has provided necessary resourcing, tickets, licenses and tooling required for career advancement in the rail industry.

The outcomes

All 10 women have reached the half-way point of the program and wish to pursue their rail career with Downer following their graduation in August 2022. The participants are currently completing four days per week at the Pakenham East Depot working across high capacity signalling, static and dynamic train testing and maintenance work crews, and are attending TAFE one day per week.

Monthly check in meetings are held with supervisors, mentors and TAFE to track participants’ progress.

Tips for success

  • Establish strong partnerships and invest in prior planning, with regular meetings, to ensure your program’s success
  • Ensure you have the right number of participants to ensure they are fully supported as they integrate with the wider business
  • Adopt an approach that allows participants to work rotations and be part of teams across the business

Participant profile

Dary Lean

Dary’s love of language has taken her from her native Cambodia to Australia – with a few stops in between. But now it’s the practical skills of Downer’s ‘Women on Track’ traineeship program that are proving her professional motivation.

Born in Cambodia, she won a scholarship in Year 12 to go to neighbouring Vietnam to study English. She used her skills to teach English in Cambodia before her zest for learning took her to Hobart in the 1990s.

Dary landed a job with Cablex – a globally recognised cable manufacturer – before she left to start a family. She later returned to work at Cablex, ran her own business and worked with the Cambodian Association.

After her children left home, the opportunity to train for an electrical apprentice with Downer has provided the next step in her career.

“The study and work combination was what attracted me, as I can get a qualification with work,” Dary says.

“A second income is really important for being able to enjoy life, and it helps with getting the children through uni.”