December 6, 2012
Fasil Yitbarek, 28, has joined Greeley and Hansen as a civil engineer in its Chicago office. He isthe firm's second hire through a unique program called Global Engineers in Residence (GEIR).
Yitbarek, a native of Eritrea in eastern Africa, joined the firm after a six-month apprenticeship through the GEIR program, which was developed by Greeley and Hansen and a nonprofit organization called Upwardly Global. Educated as an engineer in Eritrea, Yitbarek had been unable to find work in the US as an engineer since arriving here in 2010.
Educated as a civil engineer at the University of Asmara in Eriteria, Yitbarek said he fled the country because the government would not allow him to work in his chosen profession. He emigrated to neighboring Uganda where he was able to work as an engineer.
However, he also hoped to someday come to the US. Yitbarek applied for the "diversity visa" program that grants permanent residency visas or "green cards" to about 55,000 people from around the world each year. In 2009, Yitbarek learned his name had been chosen in the lottery for the visas.
After arriving in Chicago in 2010, he lived with relatives and worked in their auto repair shop. Because he was unable to find work as an engineer despite his professional training and experience, Yitbarek decided in 2011 to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison to begin studying for a master's degree in engineering.
In Madison, he supported himself as a nightshift stock clerk, a parking lot attendant and a clerk at a gas station.
A friend had told him about Upwardly Global where he learned about the GEIR program and filled out an application. When he learned that Greeley and Hansen had picked him for an apprenticeship, Yitbarek suspended his studies and joined the firm the day after his 28th birthday.