Downer cadetship program

Many of our project partners offer cadetship and traineeship opportunities for students looking to expand their experience and skills.

At Downer Group, engineering students Cameron Tait and Daniel Mills have enjoyed a range of experiences on the High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT) project to build their professional development.

The Swinburne University students have a lot in common. Same age, two siblings each and similar aspirations. As kids, both loved dismantling machines to see what made them tick. They didn’t mix at uni but became good mates during their time as Downer cadets on the ‘awesome’ HCMT project at Pakenham. 

Read more about their year as Downer cadets below.

Downer cadets Daniel and Cameron

Daniel Mills, Echuca

Why did you want to be an engineer?

I’ve always loved pulling machines apart and seeing how they work. I wanted to be a tradie and build stuff, but in Year 12 I was encouraged to pursue an engineering degree. I followed this advice and have loved it. 

You and Cameron went to the same uni – did you know each other?

No, Cam’s electrical and I’m mechanical.

The streams don’t mix?

Not much.

Are there different engineering tribes?

A little (laughs) but now they’ve changed it so everyone has a common first year.

You had loads of options, industry-wise, for your placement year – why choose trains?

Well my dad is an absolute train buff, I’m not, but that’s pretty cool. Also, I feel that trains are the way of the future. They’re very socially and economically viable and, from a greenhouse point of view, very low emissions. Train travel is where we should be heading.

What aspect of HCMT are you working on right now? 

I’m in configuration, basically tracking all the modifications we’re doing. The train shells come from China, get built at Newport, then come here to Pakenham. The design is still being slightly modified, so I track the modifications and release work orders to teams for completing the modifications. 

How is it being part of the Pakenham East depot team?

There’s a lot of camaraderie and joviality. Engineers have fun too! It’s very multicultural and diverse, with people from aerospace or military backgrounds. It makes it fun and interesting. 

Key skills you’ve learned here?

Reading of schematics and diagrams from a technical point of view. I can now identify problems, work out how to fix them, and go and see how it compares on the actual train. You wouldn’t get that kind of access working on design in the city. It’s really cool. 

Where do you see yourself working after HCMT? 

I’ll work here part-time and finish my last year at uni then apply for a graduate position. I’m going to stay in the rail industry, I’m sold on that. I might work on the mines railways in WA or Queensland or stick around in Melbourne for the airport train link.

How could more young people be encouraged to work in transport or engineering roles? 

I think it would be good for a young engineer who’s worked on big projects like HCMT or an airport to give a talk to kids at schools. These projects seem out of reach but if you meet someone who’s done it, then you might think, ‘well ok, I could do that’.

Any advice for someone looking to get into the industry?  

It’s important that potential employers can see that students worked hard at uni, because this means they will apply themselves at work as well. It’s not about being smart, more that you have a strong work ethic.

Best thing about the new trains? 

The saloon layout is really cool. No doors between carriages so you can walk right through the train. It’s very much a European design train, more open plan.

Any other transport projects you’d like to jump onboard? 

I think the airport link would be amazing; it’s a very important project for Melbourne. Or the outer rail loop, or even a high-speed rail project in the future.

How do you think the new bigger, better trains will improve travel for Melburnians? 

The most important feature is the ability to run longer trains a lot closer to each other – every one or two minutes, instead of five or six minutes – that’s the biggest advantage.

Downer cadet Daniel Mills

Cameron Tait, Mont Albert

Why did you want to be an engineer?

As a kid I was always taking old electronic devices like alarms or dishwashers apart. They never worked again, but they were already broken! I thought about PE teaching, but I also like technical subjects. So, it was a toss-up – but electrical engineering ticked all my boxes and I’ve not been disappointed.  

You had loads of options, industry-wise, for your placement year – why choose trains?

This project was the standout, something different. HCMT, the big Melbourne project. When I read the project brief, it was easy. I knew I wanted to do it. The public transport system is something I’d taken for granted, so I wanted to get inside and see how it all works.

What aspect of HCMT are you working on right now? 

I’m in the testing and commissioning team. We manage FRACAS, which is the Failure Reporting And Corrective Action System. I’m glad there’s an acronym as it’s a mouthful! If something fails during train testing, it gets reported in FRACAS. We figure out how to fix it and develop work instructions for the modification team. Once they’ve fixed it, testing can progress and everyone’s happy.

How is it being part of the Pakenham East depot team?

We’re all united to achieve that first train on the rails. It’s also good to see more female engineers on the team. And it’s also quite diverse as we’re working closely with a Chinese company, CRRC, so there’s a real mix of cultures.

Key skills you’ve learned here?

Learning how to read electrical schematics and how to translate that schematic onto the actual train, figuring where the physical wires go, that’s helped me amazingly in my day-to-day tasks.

Where do you see yourself working after HCMT?

I’m hoping to work here part-time when I go back to uni to finish my final year. After that, apply for a graduate program. Rolling stock has been interesting so I think I might stay in that area.  

How could more young people be encouraged to work in transport or engineering roles? 

Coming out of high school, I had no idea what a transport engineer did. If someone had given me an insight into what it means to be an engineer, that would have been helpful.

It sounds like we need you and Daniel to do some talks at schools.

(Laughs) I guess that might do it! Engineering is definitely more popular now, and look, building a new train and putting it out on the rails, that’s awesome!

Any advice for someone looking to get into the industry?  

The working environment is very changeable, so as long as you’re open and adaptable, and can go with the flow and keep a level head, you’ll be fine.

Best thing about the new trains? 

The coolest aspect is the new signaling technology. High capacity signalling means trains can run closer together, more often. We will have more trains on the network, reduce wait times and get people to where they need to be.    

Any other transport projects you’d like to jump onboard? 

There’s a lot going on in Melbourne, but specifically my interest would be rolling stock. The Geelong fast rail project for example or the outer suburban loop. That would be interesting, figuring out how to fit all these stations into existing infrastructure.

How do you think the new bigger, better trains will improve travel for Melburnians? 

They can carry 20 per cent more people, and the signalling means you can run more trains, so deploying this fleet will relieve congestion massively across the entire network. 

Downer cadet Cameron Tait