Maryland Workforce / Maryland Startups / Advanced Manufacturing / Education
Untangling career pathways for students
By Emily Witty /
October 29, 2018

Too often, high school students feel rushed into college before evaluating what they want to do with their lives. For those who don’t envision four or more years of lecture halls and student loan debt, there’s Untangled Minds, a 501(C)(3) dedicated to empowering young minds and educating them about the importance of leadership and entrepreneurial thinking in the Advanced Manufacturing field. 

The program made its debut at the Caroline Career and Technology Center earlier this year and the response from students has been overwhelmingly positive. Untangled Minds sees this as the first step to solving the skilled-labor shortage in Caroline County and the Eastern Shore as a whole.

“There has been a growing need in Caroline County for highly-skilled workers in manufacturing, woodworking, and metal work,” said Nicole Mihalos, co-founder of Untangled Minds and marketing administrator for Tanglewood Conservancies, Ltd., an architecture firm that partnered with Caroline County Public Schools to bring the program to reality. “There is not a lot of opportunity for young people here, so many of the best and brightest leave after finishing school. Everyone recognizes this and is receptive to solutions that counter the trend.”

Alan Stein, Untangled Minds president and co-founder of Tanglewood Conservancies began talks with the school system over a decade ago about the need for an advanced manufacturing and woodworking program that would create a growing workforce on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

“About three years ago, the Advanced Manufacturing Professional (AMP) program started to come to fruition and needed an organization to develop and deliver the curriculum content, not only from a technical training standpoint, but to develop students intellectually through life success skill training,” said Mihalos. “Thus, in January 2017, Alan and I started the Untangled Minds Foundation.” 

Maryland’s 3,750 manufacturing businesses generated $20.73 billion in gross state product in 2015 alone. One of the largest sectors within the state’s manufacturing industry is fabricated metal products, which supported 7,900 jobs in 2016. But oftentimes, the skill sets for these careers aren’t taught in traditional university programs and have to be learned quickly on-the-job. 

Untangled Minds takes an interdisciplinary approach to project-based learning by incorporating real-world training from industry professionals to support traditional technical-skills training methods. 

“With this program, students are understanding the development behind why manufacturing is done the way it is, and what the procedures are in a normal manufacturing process, while developing life skills such as salesmanship and negotiating,” said Mihalos. “Business participation transforms this program because partnering companies have the opportunity to work alongside students to train them as they would a new employee in highly-specialized skills.” 

For more information about Untangled Minds visit

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