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Jeff Nugent

Forty Under 40 winner 2014: Chief operating officer,Industry Training Authority

It’s a good bet that most liberal arts students who pursue degrees in German literature and philosophy don’t expect to end up with a successful career in business management – but that’s what happened to Vancouver resident Jeff Nugent.

After finishing his undergrad, Nugent took a job with the Alberta government, where he got a taste of the career he would spend the next decade working in.

After gaining his MBA in 2001, Nugent got his first industry job at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, where he acted as an analyst/lobbyist for three years.

“I have to admit I was always afraid of policy roles because I only knew of policy wonks, and I wanted to do something more practical,” 

Nugent said. However, his background in policy research came as an advantage when, in 2004, he was asked to join the newly formed Industry Training Authority (ITA), a Crown corporation that standardizes training, certification and programs for the trades industries.

Nugent’s biggest achievement while working at the ITA, where he is now chief operating officer, has been a major realignment of the organization following an in-depth mandate review from the government as part of the Skills for Jobs Blueprint.

“We were given some big changes to implement, which we did, and we were asked to put together a 90-day implementation plan and to make some fairly big changes. I was quite familiar with the file and the organization, having worked there for some time; I also kind of had a sense of some of the internal changes that would need to happen at ITA in terms of structure and staffing to support the direction,” Nugent said.

When he started working at ITA, Nugent was 28.

“I just remember meeting one of the people who had come from the previous system and he was a bit older, and I think on my first day his comment was, ‘I’ve got socks older than you,’” Nugent said. “But once I got some momentum going and got over my own ideas of what my age was doing or not doing for me, I’ve certainly been well respected and it’s not been an issue.”