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Innovation award for VSA/Downer partnership

Published on 11th November 2015

Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) is delighted to congratulate Downer on its win at the New Zealand Association of Graduate Employers (NZAGE) awards last week.


Downer received an “Innovation in the Graduate Industry” award for its partnership with VSA.


NZAGE Graduate Industry Award

NZAGE Graduate Industry Award for Downer / VSA partnership


Since 2013, six VSA/Downer graduates have worked with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD), assessing schools for repair and planning and building new classrooms. In that time, 20 new school libraries have been built in Honiara.


Downer sees the programme as an opportunity for its future leaders to receive on the job training in diverse environments, and to develop their project management and decision-making abilities. The first VSA/Downer engineer, Simon Trotter, had only been in the field for a week in March 2014 when severe flash flooding hit Honiara, and his role changed to helping schools maintain food and water supplies, fix damaged buildings and resume classes as quickly as possible. Simon said:


“I believe understanding the pride you feel by helping people succeed around you is the most important thing the VSA experience taught me. It has changed the way I view success and changed how I want to succeed in my life and career.”


VSA volunteer Simon Trotter on his way to a remote school in Solomon Islands

Simon Trotter on his way to visit Ruavatu Provincial Secondary School via a 2 hour canoe ride


Henson Makoani, Acting Director of the Asset Management Division of MEHRD, says:


“Skills and knowledge are shared between local staff and the VSA/Downer engineers, which has contributed to the increased effectiveness of our staff. Our staff are gaining confidence and are now improving on what they’re doing.”


VSA volunteer Simon Trotter at a school in Solomon Islands

Simon visits a school with 600 children following flash flooding in Honiara


VSA Solomon Islands Programme Manager Anita Edgecombe says “With just three months each on assignment, the young Downer engineers have to be able to get to work immediately. They’ve all shown great adaptability and have each built on their predecessors’ work to ensure this project is a success.”


VSA Partnerships Manager Elizabeth Owens adds:


“The VSA/Downer partnership demonstrates how collaboration between businesses and aid organisations like VSA has benefits far beyond what these young people achieve during their assignments.”


The partnership between Downer and VSA was renewed in December 2014 for a further three years.


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