Two premier Iowa manufacturers, Pella Corp. and Vermeer Corp., are working with Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business to help more ISU graduates to begin their sales careers in Iowa. 

The two companies are sponsoring the university’s Ivy Sales Forum, a professional sales certification program hosted with the Ivy College of Business but open to students in any major at ISU. The program is designed to provide students with exposure to industry-based case studies and experience. 

“We’re investing in the next generation of sales talent here in our home state,” said Nicolle Picray, Pella Corp.’s brand communications and public relations manager. “We believe that our focus on the development of young professionals is part of what makes Pella a great place to establish a career in sales.”

In addition to sponsoring the forum, leaders from the two corporations are rolling up their sleeves to get involved. Austen Bonnema, commercial business manager at Vermeer Corp., spent time with the students teaching concepts and getting the students on Vermeer equipment to help demonstrate the entire sales cycle. 

“This partnership is a valuable opportunity to support up-and-coming sales leaders and introduce them to our organization,” Bonnema said. “The program teaches students the personal skills of knowing how to connect with people but also goes into the technical aspects of developing long-term business partner relationships. It’s exciting to help them develop their sales skills and share the many opportunities a role in sales can lead to within Vermeer.” 

The sales forum program will be housed in the newly expanded Gerdin Business Building, which reopened to ISU students last week. Work crews are just putting the finishing touches on the 45,000-square-foot addition, which includes the new Houston Professional Sales Suite. The sales practice suite is named for Dan Houston, chairman, CEO and president of Principal Financial Group, and his wife, Joanie, for their financial contribution to the project. Both are ISU graduates. 

Staying in Iowa is not a given after graduation; in fact, statistics indicate that many students are prone to leave Iowa after graduating. One-third of students graduating from an Iowa public four-year university are likely to leave the state to begin their careers, according to an Iowa Workforce Development college student survey. 

Additionally, about 80% of marketing majors accept sales positions upon graduation, and 60% of all business students will take a job with at least some sales-related duties after graduation. Among the ISU students who have participated in the sales certificate program is Jack Wilgenbusch, who also completed an internship with Pella Corp. 

“Being a part of this program and having the ability to obtain hands-on experience has helped me gain a vision for my career,” Wilgenbusch said. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet local business leaders and gain contacts that will help me make decisions upon graduation. I’m excited about my future here in Iowa.”

Currently, more than 100 students are enrolled in sales classes that are required for the certificate, although not all those students may complete the certificate, a spokeswoman for the Ivy College said. The certificate program has been in place since January; the exact number of certificate students won’t be known until the spring semester ends.