Jeff Gardner is the co-founder and CEO of Carousel Industries, a provider of technology and convergent communication services for more than 6,000 organizations nationwide. After working alongside the Community College of Rhode Island for several years to help align students with relevant skills for the workforce, Carousel was recognized with the school’s Business Champion Award. The company was also honored at CCRI’s “Changing Lives Celebration.” Aside from forming Carousel Industries, Gardner has more than 25 years of technology-related experience and is a certified public accountant. He holds a B.S. in accounting from Bryant University.
PBN: How did Carousel’s partnership with CCRI develop? In what ways has the company worked with CCRI to align student skill sets?
GARDNER: Several years ago, Carousel was invited to a workshop session at CCRI about student curriculums. At that time, the instructors’ focus was on technology; however, Carousel recommended the need for soft-skill training. Students new to the workforce were lacking nontechnical skills and it was challenging to integrate students with our customers. The goal of education is to provide relevant skills for the workforce, so Carousel brought the idea of additional vendor products relating to networking, security, voice and wireless to the classroom in order to further enhance and distinguish these students from other applicants competing in the workplace.
Two of the CCRI instructors listened that day, recognizing students need to learn technology with an added focus on the soft-skills: CCRI’s John Mowry and Tony Rashid were instructors in classes attended by Jack Knight, [who] had a strong desire to learn computer networking to help him advance in the workforce. The networking knowledge [he] learned while enrolled at CCRI brought him to Carousel.
PBN: Do you think companies have a responsibility to their community to help people gain the skills they need to find employment?
GARDNER: Students graduating from the CCRI programs are potential employees and potential customers. Educated customers understand what is best for their businesses and make the best decisions based on this knowledge.
PBN: Do you get the sense that employees who are hired through CCRI’s program will have a greater commitment and loyalty to Carousel?
GARDNER: Several Carousel employees have been approached with other offers and remain employed at Carousel. Internal advancement, the availability of progressive training programs and certifications, as well as the availability of cross-training in product disciplines of voice, video and data [allow] employees to remain at Carousel and personally grow in both knowledge and experience. •
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