Empowering young people to be

leaders of societal change


An interview with Nicole Amey, Australian Entrepreneurial Educator Award winner 2022.

Keywords: Entrepreneurial mindset, education, design thinking, transferable skills, community engagement, sustainable development.


How did you first develop your interest in entrepreneurial education?


I attended University of Surrey, Froebel College, and successfully completed a four year Bachelor of Arts Teaching degree with combined honours English Language and Linguistics. My particular interest was working with children from inner London areas of socio economic deprivation and diverse, marginalised multicultural backgrounds. I spent 10 years working inner London schools and fast tracked to leadership as Deputy Principal and Head Teacher in Primary Schools, raising standards with a Rights Respecting ethos and developing creative curriculums.


I then spent 2 years working in an International Baccalaureate school in Dubai as a Deputy Principal to develop curriculum with an inquiry based lens and real world application to learning projects. My passion for developing children aged 3-12 into informed, globally competent, and future-ready learners was influenced by progressive pedagogy, metacognition and primary education best practice through an international primary curriculum tailored to fit the children’s needs while developing their knowledge, skills and understanding. Through thematic units, fun and engaging learning opportunities were created that enabled learners to make connections between subjects and the world around them.  This pedagogy was the foundation that has evolved over the years with the 21 Century learner attributes and competencies that is now entrepreneurial education which impacts on the transferable skills for employability and future career endeavours for youths.


How are students at Kepnock High School introduced to the main ideas about entrepreneurship?


Our youths are introduced to the main ideas on entrepreneurship through design-based challenges. We immerse youths in workshops, industry connections or projects that they can implement with an entrepreneurial mindset. We step them through the process with a specific theme and youths explore the problem to that theme using a design thinking framework. Youths learn how to reframe problems as opportunities and develop their entrepreneurial mindset, skill set and tool kit to understand the customer, problem, idea, validate, prototype, pitch it outcome. 


Entrepreneurial education is an important mindset as it is about developing our students' ability to create social, cultural, or economic value. Entrepreneurship empowers youth experiences for thinking critically, collaboratively and creatively to undertake complex problem solving which can all contribute to developing a student's entrepreneurial mindset with a solution focused approach.


We have no idea of the landscape of careers in the future – we need to equip our emerging leaders to succeed and develop competencies to build capacity for future pathways for employability. Entrepreneurial education provides students with transversal skills to negotiate and thrive in increasingly complex societies to develop an ethos of lifelong eLearning.


Entrepreneurial learning leverages opportunities for inclusive learning in areas such as gender inequality, intergenerational relationships and female activation in commercial enterprise. Our ‘how’ at Kepnock State High School is through building an ecosystem of community with entrepreneurs, business, educators and youths to create innovative learning pathways. An entrepreneurial mindset elevates student potential with research suggesting that young people with enterprise skills are 17 months ahead of their peers in gaining full time employment. Entrepreneurial education provides students with transversal skills to negotiate and thrive in increasingly complex societies to develop an ethos of lifelong eLearning.


Picture Credit: Kepnock State High School teachers and students participating in Clean Up Australia Day, Bundaberg Now, accessed 17/11/22, <https://www.bundabergnow.com/2020/03/06/kepnock-high-helps-environment/>.


In what ways are the students exposed to problems that affect local communities? 


Our youths are developed as intrapreneurs at Kepnock State High School through roles in Student Leadership. My role as a Year Coordinator allows for me to collaborate with the Student Leaders in my cohort and they are phenomenal in looking at an in-house community challenges as well as assisting community events locally and nationally. All of the events they organise at school impact on engaging community as well as have that ripple effect to a global scale.


As entrepreneurs, our annual Ingenium Award exposes our youths to community-based challenges such as responding to UNESCO Great Barrier Reef announcement in 2021 that the GBR is in danger or this year in 2022 focusing on a community challenge for a solution that can meet the needs of all with the winning concept pitching an app for domestic violence victims as our region has the has the highest statistics for this problem in our local context.


Youths are the grassroots movement of societal change and look at the world with a solution focused lens – they say it as it is and are not afraid to challenge public perception on what they feel needs to be put in place for solution focused ideas. Through curriculum I collaborate with Young Change Agents, a not for profit social enterprise, and set design-based challenges that have a set theme with a geographical lens to align with the Sustainable Development Goals that allows students to immerse themselves in areas such as climate action or the future of travel.


Recently our youths engaged with community challenge Immersive days that focused on designs for accessibility for wheelchair users and another challenge to identify a problem which matters and create a solution through different strategies such as circular economy or AI based conservation strategy. From this a team is now pitching an idea virtually to a CEO of a hydrogen corporation. All problems that affect our community although can impact far wider with solutions.


Do students get involved with social enterprises and how does this help to build their ambitions to be future social entrepreneurs and community leaders? 


At Kepnock State High School we start with think local, to think big! In 2022 we delivered various extracurricular entrepreneurial education programmes to approximately 150 Regional youths from Year 7 to 12 with diverse backgrounds. With a grant received with eBay Foundation and SchoolsPlus, we developed Lighting the Spark, an intergenerational entrepreneurial capability programme in collaboration with Young Change Agents and Taribelang Aboriginal Corporation, that includes our First Nation youths. These teams of indigenous youths are working on business models that celebrate culture and identity with a successful Arts Night stall and provision of water bottles to the E3 Entrepreneurial Educators conference in September. One of our indigenous teams - Custodians of the Sea was a finalist in the Teens Business Awards Indigenous Entrepreneur Award category. COS are building a social enterprise and linked in with W.Y.L.D. Indigenous Corporation to protect the Milbi turtles in our region.


We have also held workshops for Academy Enterprising Girls to empower females in the entrepreneurship landscape. In 2022 Kepnock was part of a National co-design model with 5 schools nationally to build the YCA programme ‘Digital Boss’ that will equip youths with entrepreneurial and social enterprise skills to provide a digital service to an industry or start up. The programme will roll out with schools for a 2023 launch across Australia.


Kepnock has secured a significant amount of funding with Queensland Department of Education Senior Schooling and 2023 implementation is underway with professional development workshops for educators and students as we apply a careers lens to entrepreneurial education. This innovative entrepreneurial programme will impact on learning and employment outcomes as students will understand the need for enterprise skills and will demonstrate the value of these skills to prospective employers or consider starting their own ventures or micro-businesses.


Planning is underway to host the annual event with Power of Engineering to empower 100 female youths to consider career pathways in employability with engineering which involves various local industry as well as sponsorship with Ergon and in 2023 CQUniversity collaboration. At Kepnock State High School we continue to forge connections with industry experts and develop key individuals that strengthen the education pathways, build school capacity and make entrepreneurial pathways visible to young people. Our Humanities Department successfully established $20 Boss programme and held a Market Day with our young entrepreneurs products. There are talks with Young Change Agents on how to creatively implement social enterprise skills for progression across year groups in the 2023 Humanities curriculum. We are committed to providing multi touch points for all of our community to succeed.


Picture Credit:  Kepnock teacher wins entrepreneurial award, Bundaberg Now, accessed 17/11/22,  <https://www.bundabergnow.com/2022/11/12/kepnock-teacher-wins-entrepreneurial-award/>.


Many congratulations on your recent Teens In Business Award for Business Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year.  What does this award mean to you and your students? 


To win the 2022 Teens in Business Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year Award is positive recognition and achievement for the hard graft and drive that has been a focus for the last 3 years at Kepnock State High School. It has been extensive networking, building creative entrepreneurial learning pathways with the assistance of local and National industry, partnerships with Young Change Agents and the Ingenium Award with alumni, Jamie Olsen and the commitment of excellent educators in our team.


In 2022, I attended E3 Unconference in Adelaide with 40 entrepreneurial educators across Australia and presented on building an ecosystem in your community. Winning the Entrepreneurial Educator Award will provide a scholarship to attend E3 again in 2023 as well as the opportunity to forge stronger collaborations with individuals in the entrepreneurial space. There are further developments and opportunities on the horizon for myself with invitation to roundtable discussions on youth entrepreneurship with Queensland government department, University driven immersive programmes to enhance the entrepreneurial skillset of our youths and interest from industry to collaborate with our youths on their entrepreneurial concept and design.


This award is an acknowledgement personally but also for our school and Region and I invite educators and industry to collaborate to strengthen the partnerships across schools and community to further leverage opportunities to build a coherent culture that integrates social enterprise with entrepreneurial education. We can provide the opportunities for our ‘raw regional talent’ to empower our emerging leaders with the toolkit to transform outcomes for societal change. I will continue to advocate and drive youth innovation. I am passionate about developing entrepreneurial mindsets and believe that voice of youth is the catalyst in driving change in our modern landscape.