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Professional Fellow Program

Applications for 2014 are now closed!

Thank you to all of our highly skilled applicants.


All Professional Fellows will be placed in Sub-Saharan Africa for the four month overseas portion of their Fellowship, where they will be working as an integral part of EWB’s African Programs. The vast majority of assignments will be with our established partners in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia for English speaking Professional Fellows and in Burkina Faso for Francophone Professional Fellows.

minaWhile overseas Professional Fellows live with local families when possible and otherwise adopt a modest lifestyle that will be similar to that of their co-workers in their partner organisation. This means living on $10 a day or less, eating local foods, collecting water, taking local buses, and integrating culturally to their host community.

None of our volunteers are allowed to work in a county or region where there is a travel restriction in place by the Canadian government. As a rule EWB does not and will not work in areas of conflict or crisis because they lack the stability needed for the type of long term development that EWB engages in. In case of an emergency EWB has a comprehensive insurance policy for each of our volunteers that covers the cost and logistics of evacuations for health emergencies should they be required.

Professional Fellows often work at a field or district level with partners where we have a relationship at a head office or regional level. They often work close to the field and do more implementing work which is often tied to larger EWB initiatives with the partner. PF’s are sometimes placed with new partners where they can either add value on their own or can test something that EWB is working on. Partners often have PFs doing research or testing new initiates in part to see if they’ll succeed and in part to learn how to change them for success next time.

Back in Canada

Upon return to Canada at the end of their term the Professional Fellow will participate in a Transition Session that will facilitate their re-entry into life in Canada after their four months of intense cross-cultural exchange. They will then hopefully return to their chapters with new energy and knowledge ready to be champions of EWB and development!

mem learningOnce Professional Fellows have returned to their chapters they will take on a variety of roles; there is not one recipe for success or model for a returned PF. Every Professional Fellow is however expected to take on some kind of leadership role where they are able to bring their learning from their experience in Africa back to benefit their chapter.

A good way to think about it is that the program is designed for Professional Fellows to spend eight months preparing to be champions of development in their cit network chapters; the first four months of learning prior to departure overseas and the second four months overseas working directly on the ground. With this new knowledge on how EWB can have impact and passion to share Professional Fellows are encourages to find a ‘leadership’ role at their chapter.

Being a leader in EWB can mean a lot of different things; it can mean that you are part of a chapter executive, that you actively work to promote EWB in the community, or that you attend general chapter meetings and regularly ground them by sharing insights and experiences from overseas.

One of the chapter’s returned PFs will also be asked to mentor the PFs selected by the chapter in the following year, if possible. The decision on who this will be will depend on a lot of different factors at each chapter and will be made by the chapter during the year planning process. The Mentor will run frequent meetings with the selected PFs and help accelerate their training, pass on important stories and experiences, and play a role in ensuring that the PFs are prepared physically, emotionally, and mentally for the overseas portion of their Fellowship.

Qualities of a Successful Professional Fellow


The goals of the program are threefold:

  1. To create change in Canada when the PF returns,
  2. To create change overseas with our partners through having direct impact
  3. To build great knowledgeable leaders for human development

Based on these objectives we are looking for candidates that will be able to return to their chapter to act as leaders, who will be champions for EWB’s mission, and also have skills such as humility, adaptability, and cultural tolerance that will make them valuable assets to EWB’s partners.

Candidates who believe they will be able to apply their specific hard skills (IT, structures, programming, water treatment, etc) that they have learned in school or on in the work place in four months will be disappointed unless their expectations are managed. Those specific skills are just one tool within the very large tool box required by a development worker; this Fellowship is meant to introduce members to that skill set.

Mandatory Requirements

While volunteers should be selected primarily on their ability to achieve these goals there are also a number or minimum requirements that must also be met to be eligible to participate in the Professional Fellowship program. To be considered for a placement the candidate must be meet the following requirements:

The candidate must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

There are a few reasons for this requirement the most significant of which is that the cost of international travel insurance for someone who does not have provincial health coverage can more than double the cost of the Fellowship. Furthermore EWB does not have the capacity to establish relationships with other consulates and governments to ensure the proper support of our Professional Fellows should they require diplomatic assistance while abroad.

The candidate must be a member of the chapter who is willing to assume a formal or informal leadership role in the chapter in the following year.

The candidate must be available to volunteer for the entire period of the placement (Approximately August to December).

Recommended Qualities

rachel1Unfortunately technical skills learned in Canadian engineering schools are very rarely transferable to a project in a developing community overseas. Though consultations with recruitment experts in the field of development and through EWB’s own experience it has been shown that a development worker’s soft skills are more important than their technical skills. EWB’s pre-departure training and chapter education modules are meant to enable Professional Fellow’s to develop the approach they require to be successful. The candidate should also demonstrate an understanding of Engineers Without Borders’ values, beliefs, and Dorothy first approach. Priority should also be given to applicants who have demonstrated previous involvement and loyalty to the organisation as it is a strong indicator of future commitment.


Typical annual timeline for a professional fellow (please discuss this timeline with your employer if you are thinking about applying for a Professional Fellowship):

  • Application open – February 25th to March 25th, 2014

  • Interviews period – March 26th-April 15th, 2014

  • Foundational Learning – April to July, 2014

  • Pre-departure training (for both departure periods) – end of July, 2014

  • Contributing to Venture (Africa):

    • Summer departure: August to mid-December, 2014

    • Winter departure: February to mid-May, 2015

  • Debrief:

    • Summer departure: mid-December, 2014

    • Winter departure: mid-May, 2015

  • Contribution to EWB chapter: after return

Permanent link to this article: http://edmonton.ewb.ca/get-involved/professional-fellow-program/