The NSW agency responsible for supporting startups, small to medium enterprises (SMEs), and job growth has lost its boss amid uncertainty of the agency’s future.
Jobs for NSW chief executive officer Nicole Cook has left her role, according to a Treasury spokesperson.
“With Jobs for NSW now part of NSW Treasury, Nicole Cook has decided the time is right to look at other leadership opportunities,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.
“Nicole Cook has played a significant role in her team’s focus on driving the jobs of the future while supporting startups, fast-growing companies, and creating networks of support across government, industry, and educational institutions.”
Cook wished the agency well in her departure and looks forward to “partnering with the government on this important agenda again in the future”.
Jobs for NSW was originally an independent agency, and reported through the NSW Department of Industry. It was moved to the Treasury’s portfolio after the Berejiklian government’s re-election prompted machinery of government changes.
Chaired by David Thodey, the Jobs for NSW board consisted of high-profile public servants including secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Tim Reardon and secretary of the Department of Industry Simon Draper. The board was dumped last month, despite its website showing no signs of change.
A Treasury spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that a review into Jobs for NSW was “ongoing”.
“The new structure means Jobs for NSW has been integrated into NSW Treasury and therefore an independent board is no longer necessary,” they said.
The Treasury ordered a review into Jobs for NSW in May, with plans to cease its grant funding schemes and exit its investments, according to the SMH.
An internal briefing paper released under an order issued by the Legislative Council revealed that $70 million is “uncommitted”, and “could be used to support the broader development and jobs growth agenda across NSW.”
Last year, the government invested $3.3 million in an oyster farm, and another $3.3 million in a wagyu beef company, through a co-investment scheme between Jobs for NSW, the superannuation company First State Super, and private equity firm ROC Partners.
The investments raised questions around transparency and conflict of interest, which the briefing document noted as having “attracted negative publicity and many parliamentary questions”.
It suggested the review into Jobs for NSW consider that “it is not the role of government to pick winners” and stated that the co-investment scheme, current investments and loans should end.
Jobs for NSW has been picking winners this week, though, despite wrapping up its loans and investments.
Startups from regional NSW participated in a bootcamp at the Sydney Startup Hub from 12-14 August, competing for entry into the 2019 Jobs for NSW Regional Pitchfest finals.
Minister for Jobs Stuart Ayres said the Pitchfest helps regional businesses “take the next big step in their development”.
“We want to help these startups grow and develop to create businesses and jobs that can support the economic future of our regions,” he said.