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A passionate social entrepreneur and “accidental” leader who inspires female high school students to study STEM is encouraging the state’s “wisdom workers” to give their millennial workforce more opportunities to step up and lead.

Founder of the WeAspire future leaders' program and co-founder of the Power of Engineering, Felicity Furey has encouraged more than 12,500 students to take up STEM and inspired more than 20,000 future industry leaders over the past decade.

Ms Furey will share her insights into what motivates the millennial workforce and how to unlock the STEM potential in students with independent school leaders at the Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) 2021 State Forum: Celebrating Change on 17 June in Brisbane.

The engineer and mother-of-one, who initially dreamed of becoming a visual artist, said a high school physics teacher encouraged her to consider engineering.

“I didn’t think it was creative at all, but creativity is the biggest aspect for an engineer because we’re designing things and solving problems … you have to think of new solutions that have never existed before. I’m really grateful that I had my art background because it’s really helped me be a better engineer,” Ms Furey said in an interview with ISQ’s The School Bell podcast ahead of the forum.

Ms Furey, who describes herself as an accidental leader, said having an “engineering mindset” has also made her a better leader.

“It has helped me in my mission to go and solve a problem, whether it’s getting more women into engineering, whether it’s getting kids excited about maths or training the next generation of leaders,” she said.

Ms Furey wants to see more mature leaders relinquish some of their responsibilities to their younger staff to help them accelerate their career progression, practise their leadership skills and become champions for leadership.

“I talk about manufacturing opportunities, and it can be a real opportunity for leaders too – leaders are so busy they’ve got a lot on their plate. Is there a part of your role that you can break off and give a leadership opportunity to somebody who is younger?,” she said.

Ms Furey is among a thought-provoking line-up of speakers addressing the theme Celebrating Change at the biennial ISQ State Forum.

ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said COVID-19 had disrupted every aspect of modern life and forced leaders everywhere, including principals, to reimagine how they delivered their services and interacted with their communities.

“The past 18-months have been as enlightening as they have been challenging, with this period of disruption creating new ways of thinking, working and living,” he said.

“Despite the challenges, the independent schooling sector has emerged stronger than ever, buoyed by parental confidence in the quality of education and experiences provided by the sector’s more than 220 independent schools.”

The 2021 ISQ State Forum Celebrating Change will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 17 June. Queensland independent school leadership teams and school board representatives can register for the forum here. Seats are limited.


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Justine Nolan
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