Just two blocks east from the State Capitol in Des Moines is the home of IPI’s sales, marketing and customer service department, the IPI Showroom! Whether you’re calling in to make an order or coming in to check out a piece of furniture, the IPI Showroom provides a space for customers to meet with IPI staff.
The IPI Showroom also is staffed with seven women offenders from ICIW’s minimum live-out unit. These women are learning and gaining experience in customer service, computer skills, and conflict resolutions. Many of them hope to find a job in an office setting once they’re released.
“I learned about the products that are sold, how to navigate global (IPI's ERP system), different types of sheeting for signs, customer services, Microsoft Office, and Hoonuit Apprenticeship has taught me a lot as well. The skills I learned will be useful when I get a job at an office or hotel.” shares an incarcerated individual.
Offenders have the opportunity to make campaign calls to current and potential customers, as well as follow up on a customers satisfaction on a product. They learn Microsoft Office and Google Suites to enter data into the computer, and receive limited email access to correspond with staff within the showroom and IPI.
Some of the offenders have also been able to take a more specific route during their time at IPI. “I’ve learned how to operate AutoCAD and how to do 3D renderings of rooms and furniture. I plan on getting certified in AutoCAD when I’m released and eventually earning a degree in the field.” shares an offender. “Learning AutoCAD has been a challenge, but I’ve gained so much confidence because of it. Being given this opportunity has been a gift that will change my future.”
The staff at the IPI Showroom notice the growth in self worth the incarcerated individuals gain. “I have seen I/I’s come in with all different skill sets. The biggest way I’ve seen them grow is their confidence. They have the ability to succeed, I just don’t think they’ve heard it enough!” shares Sara Schnotala, one of IPI’s customer service representatives. “I hope they will not only gain a skill or knowledge in the work area but that we can also challenge their way of thinking and leave not only a professional but a personal impact on their life in someway.”
Karen Donahue, an IPI customer service representative shares, “I am continually looking for new ways to challenge them (incarcerated individuals). They are always eager to work on a new project!” And the women at the showroom enjoy the challenge as well! One of them shares “I enjoy learning new skills everyday and challenging myself. I feel that with what I’ve learned working at IPI my future has changed and that’s exciting!”
Another offender also shares “Working with the staff and continuously learning new things. I get to get away from prison life for awhile and it brings me happiness to work for IPI.”
Follow Iowa Prison Industries on social media to see more from the IPI Showroom throughout the month or visit our website! For more information on the IPI Showroom, please contact Bob Fairfax at (515)249-7588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.