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Young Engineering Fellows: Where are they now?

In March 2013, we caught up with Engineer Nadine Rishmawi, now aged 25, who had worked with CHF International (now Global Communities) on USAID projects through her participation in the Engineering Fellows program back in 2011. Funded by USAID and in partnership with the Engineers Association - Jerusalem Center, the program provided her with hands-on, paid work experience to help her to develop her professional skills and to prepare for entering the job market. In 2012, 59 participants took part in the Fellows Program bringing the total for the past five years to 120 participants.

Photo Caption: Eng. Nadine, 25, at her office in Bethlehem

As a fellow, Nadine, a native of Bethlehem and Civil Engineering graduate from BirZeit University, had the opportunity to work at project sites managed by CHF with USAID funding, including new schools, roads, and clubs to improve the quality of life for Palestinians in and around Bethlehem and Hebron. She was also one of only two 2011 fellows competitively selected for the two-month, intensive Young Green Fellows internship in the UAE with the well-known engineering firm, Khatib & Alami, which also financially sponsored the internship. Below Nadine shares with us what she is doing now, what she gained from the Engineering Fellows Program, and the advice she has for recent engineering graduates.
CHF: Why did you decide to apply for and eventually accept the engineering fellow position?
Nadine: First of all, when I graduated I had a lot of trouble finding a job because I didn’t have experience.Everyone wants at least 2-3 years of experience, so it is hard to get accepted out of college. For six months, I stayed at home. Eventually, I decided that I just needed to get experience, so I started volunteering with a contractor. While I was working with him (without getting paid), I heard about the engineering fellow program and that it was for recent graduates. So I applied! 
“I had a blank CV before I came here [Engineering Fellows Program),
but when I finished the program my CV was full.
It made me feel good that I had real work experience.”  
Eng. Nadine Rishmawi, Engineering Fellow and Young Green Fellow in 2011
CHF: What did you learn from the program? How did it benefit your career?
Nadine: First of all, I met lots of people. And I made lots of connections. On the technical level, I learned about project design and supervision. We also went to several seminars, workshops, and training courses. They were very useful. I attended ten trainings in ten months.
I had a blank CV before I came here, but when I finished the program my CV was full. It made me feel good that I had real work experience. 
“By the end [of the Young Green Engineers internship in UAE], I was thinking 'green’…
[In the next 5-10 years], I hope to be working on green building projects and applying green building practices in the country.”
 Eng. Nadine, age 25
CHF: Do you have a significant experience or learning experience that stands out as a fellow that you can share with us? What did you learn from the experience?
I was mainly affected by the green building internship in UAE with Khatib & Alami under the Young Green Fellows program. When I went to Sharjah, I tried to get all of the essential things there and read about LEED. I took training courses not only from Khatib & Alami, but also on my own. And I also went on to get a green associate certificate from the United States Green Building Council. By the end, I was thinking 'green,’ and when I came back I did presentations for the other fellow engineers and at the Engineers Association to share what I had learned.
CHF: What are you doing now? Have you been applying the skills you gained as a fellow in your work?
Now I work at the Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation in Bethlehem. The Centre is specialized in the protection, restoration and management of heritage resources. I do lots of things there, including design review, preparing civil drawings and writing proposals. I am definitely applying some of the green building techniques I learned when I do design review. If I see something that is not green, I determine whether it can be modified. We re-use materials and make sure paint used is non-toxic.
CHF: What advice do you have for young engineers who are just graduating? What’s the best advice you can give them as they enter the job market?
Try to get experience from other engineers because you can’t reach where you are without the help of someone who has experience. And you have to get experience first and work hard to reach the things you want. Students must start preparing themselves for the job market from the moment they enter the university, so that they are prepared once they graduate.
CHF: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Nadine: I hope to be working on green building projects, and applying green building practices in the country.
Next month we will interview Eng. Abdallah Houbari, a 2011 Engineering Fellow now working at Rawabi, the first of its kind housing and community development project in the West Bank.