Welcome to The Work Place, where we talk about the cultures we work in, and how to make them better for everyone. I’m Andrew Scarcella.
This episode, we’re talking with Jina Krause-Vilmar from Upwardly Global about why immigrants and refugees are a motherlode of untapped talent, and how helping them integrate into the American workforce benefits literally everyone.
Stick around after the interview for Tangible Takeaways, where we break down the big ideas from the interview into bite-sized morsels you can use in shaping your own workplace culture.
Jina Krause-Vilmar is the president and CEO of Upwardly Global, a non-profit that helps immigrant and refugee professionals regain their careers, contribute to their new communities, and realise their full potential. In her 15 years of experience across the non- and for-profit sectors, Jina has worked with government agencies, corporations, and the United Nations to craft and implement solutions that have helped hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants integrate into the workforce and build a life in their new home.
Now it’s time for Tangible Takeaways, where we take big ideas out of long-term storage and painstakingly restore them, bit by bit. First injecting the frame with a B72 resin to stabilise the wood. Then, with utmost care, gently cleaning them with gelled solvents and soft cotton swabs, slowly revealing the pristine originals underneath. And finally, sealing it with a Regalrez ultraviolet-blocking conservator's varnish with a tinuvin 292 stabiliser before returning them to their rightful place. Hanging in the Louvre bathroom.
1. The first is that much like the past, the future growth of the American workforce depends largely on immigrants and refugees. Skilled and highly motivated, they’ll bring a much needed influx of education, innovation, and loyalty to professions in desperate need of qualified candidates. Like healthcare, bio-tech, engineering, software development, and many more. As Jina pointed out, by 2050, 83% of the growth in our working age population will come from immigrants and the children of immigrants. So we don’t just have a moral obligation to cast our nets into the immigrant and refugee talent pool, we have a financial one, too. A rising tide lifts all ships, and immigrants are the tide.
2. The second is that changing our hiring mindset is not just about creating a pipeline for underrepresented groups at the entry level. It’s about cultivating upward mobility within the company—a ladder instead of a pipeline. That means mentoring, continuing education, competitive salaries, and tailored recognition programs to reinforce retention and inspire great work. Luckily, it’s a self-sustaining system. The more people like themselves they see represented in middle management, upper management, executives, c-suites, and boardrooms, the more they’ll feel comfortable taking on extra responsibility and the less they’ll look elsewhere.
3. The third is that, as the child of second generation immigrants, I’m in a weird space. But one that’s familiar to a lot of Americans. The struggles and triumphs of my immigrant family isn’t in the dim past of great-great-grandparents, it’s in the stories my father tells me about growing up in rural New Jersey with two fresh off the boat Italian parents.
I’ve also been the beneficiary of a lot of unearned privilege, since I grew up without the shadow and stigma of first-generation immigrant parents looming over me. It’s a familiar recipe for complacency. One many American-born citizens have internalised without thinking about it much, if at all. The American fantasy of having to work hard, pay your dues, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps is just that—a fantasy. But we can break the spell by supporting new immigrants and refugees directly. Not just in our thoughts and tweets.
It could be a monetary donation to an organisation like Upwardly Global, or it could be leading the charge at your organisation to reform the hiring practices to focus more on underrepresented groups. Or it could be mentoring an immigrant or refugee in your community—giving them access to your connections and knowledge of American workplace culture so they can find their place in it and thrive once they’re there.
This episode was written and read by Andrew Scarcella—with additional writing, production, and sound design by Daniel Foster Smith. Special thanks to Katie Clifford, our Executive Producer, for all that she does.
If you liked this episode, or even if you didn’t, please rate, review, and, of course, subscribe to The Work Place wherever you get your podcasts.
The Work Place is sponsored by O.C. Tanner, the global leader in engaging workplace cultures. O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud™ provides a single, modular suite of apps for influencing and improving employee experiences through recognition, career anniversaries, wellbeing, leadership, and more.
If you want your organisation to become a place where people can’t wait to come to work in the morning, go to octanner.com/au/.
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