Cadetship key to a bright future

Success Stories

A civil engineering cadetship with Downer comes on the back of 12 months hard effort and sheer determination for Lopati Lapana.

Originally from Tokelau, Lopati has been in New Zealand for two years. Outside of work he loves to play rugby and the guitar but at school it was maths and physics that he shone in.

Lopati started with Downer New Zealand by joining the Partners Porirua – Downer Youth 2 Work programme, at the start of 2021 as a Year 13 student at Aotea College.

Programme Lead for Downer, Wesley Sheehan, says Lopati comes in every day with a good attitude and is not afraid of hard work. “He is reliable and is well liked by his colleagues possessing a desire to succeed in everything he does.”

A prime example of this says Wesley was when Downer was doing interviews for its Youth 2 Work programme.

“Of the 15 candidates interviewed, Lopati was the only one that asked about how he could get into the cadet programme. This showed us he had ambition and made him stand out from the crowd. The fact that he was doing mathematics and physics in his final year at school showed that he liked to challenge himself and this made him a prime candidate for the cadet programme.”

The Downer cadetship programme is an initiative that allows candidates to ‘earn while they learn’ by completing a Diploma in Civil Engineering while simultaneously doing different work rotations through the various departments within Downer. Candidates attend monthly block courses and complete assignments in their evenings and weekends.


Lopati says he initially got involved in the Youth 2 Work paid holiday programme to gain some experience and to keep busy in the school holidays. “It was also good to be able to earn money and give myself a bit of independence.”

Jacqui Edwards, Workforce Development Manager for Partners Porirua says she knew that Lopati was good with physics and maths so decided to focus on him in terms of the cadetship opportunity.

He says Jacqui helped him through the interview process for the holiday programme and connected him with Downer and checked in with him regularly during the year. Then Jacqui and his gateway teacher at Aotea College encouraged him to apply for the cadetship. “I saw it as a great opportunity for my future and my family is very proud of me for applying and getting accepted.”

“All in all, the process to becoming a cadet took a full year which shows a great deal of commitment from Lopati (and Downer!),” says Jacqui.

Lopati began the cadetship in January 2022 and acknowledges that starting a new job can be a challenging time. “I had to get used to being a full-time worker and remembering all the new information that I am learning. It has also been challenging figuring out how to organise myself to get ready for the civil engineering course,” says Lopati.

Wesley says that once Lopati has completed the programme, he will have a Diploma in Civil Engineering and a great understanding of the various divisions within the civil construction industry and how they all fit together to form the big picture.

“The cadetship programme provides Lopati with an opportunity to gain vital knowledge of the intricate workings that is the civil construction industry. Once he has completed the programme, he will be in a good position to take on an entry level management role and this will set him up to become one of our future leaders within Downer and the civil industry,” says Wesley.