Gareth Jekel
Gareth Jekel

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Gareth Jekel is a fine example of just how far a qualification from Box Hill Institute – combined with hard work and determination – can take you. Having completed his training in refrigeration, he built up his own highly successful refrigeration company, and today is managing director of an HR Consulting business.

Gareth’s career path began at the age of 15, when he did work experience with his next door neighbour who owned a refrigeration company. When his neighbour offered him an apprenticeship, he couldn’t wait to start.

Gareth’s parents, however, weren’t so keen: they would have liked to see him continue at school, but having been bitten by the refrigeration bug, there was no holding Gareth back.

His employers recommended Box Hill Institute because it specialised in commercial refrigeration, and Gareth was only too happy to go along with their choice. “I loved trade school. It was easy for me to get to and it was modern and clean,” he remembers. He worked hard and topped each year.

After graduation, Gareth continued to work for the company that gave him his apprenticeship, but at age 21 decided it was time to set out on his own. “When you’re 21, nothing is daring,” he laughs. He built this venture up to a business with an annual turnover of $22 million and 150 staff.

Gareth was awarded the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs Career Achievement Award for 1996, with Senator Amanda Vanstone saying: “Gareth’s success proves that young people are both entrepreneurial and make a real contribution to Australia’s economy and the community”.

The business was sold in 2005 and Gareth was looking for a sea change. He attended a business seminar on how to recruit staff by the founder of Performia, and realised that if he had had that information earlier, running his own business would have been a lot more fun. Fired up with enthusiasm, Gareth did a deal to bring the Performia systems to Australia. However, he hasn’t entirely abandoned his first love of refrigeration – Gareth is a part owner in a refrigeration business established by one of his former sales staff.

Despite his success, Gareth is not yet ready to rest on his laurels. In five or 10 years’ time, he would like to see Performia owning five per cent of the recruitment market in Australia and the Asia Pacific Region, and to be the leader in the Human Resources systems area.

When he’s not working towards these goals, Gareth spends his time with his wife and two daughters, and enjoys reading and dirt-bike riding. He is also a keen skier and snowboarder. Seems like he just can’t keep away from all things cold!