RIDGELY — Students, faculty and business partners involved with the Caroline County Public Schools Advanced Manufacturing Program (AMP) celebrated the completion of the program’s inaugural year Wednesday, Jan. 30.

The AMP program is a unique pathway curriculum at Caroline County Career and Technology Center, which teaches students proper manufacturing techniques, readying them for trade careers. Students presented completed projects, such as guitars they built in the fall, and participated in an open discussion about the program.

The program is the first of its kind in Maryland, and it began with a partnership between Denton business Tanglewood Conservatories, through its Untangled Minds organization, and Caroline County Public Schools. Students from North Caroline and Colonel Richardson high schools are enrolled in the program.

Industrial Technology Teacher and AMP instructor Keith Hale said the program had “a lot of victories” throughout its first year. Hale said years of hard work and dedication and creativity went into creating the program.

“State of Maryland didn’t really want to approve this program, had no idea what it was about,” Hale said. “There’s nothing like it anywhere. It’s just been an incredible ride, it really has.”

Hale said the direct connection between students and business partners is the most beneficial aspect of the program. Hale said having the business partners communicate their needs, which are chiefly needing a skilled workforce, is invaluable.

“There’s a need for this program. Several of our business partners are all experiencing the same exact thing,” Hale said. “They have positions but there’s a shortage of skilled workers to fill those positions.”

Hale said he was surprised in some of the students and their abilities. He said in the county, curriculums are becoming more centered on collective work.

“Individually everybody’s got these different strengths, and when they’re coming together and working as a team they really do help each other,” Hale said.

Hale said the only constraint of the program is the sole CNC manufacturing machine, which could be distractingly loud when in use.

Hale said many times when the machine was running, it would have to run all night in order to complete a project in time for the next day of assignments. Other times, the machine would make so much noise, he could not instruct students, he said.

“When we were running the CNC machine, I was doing all the work, which, I should not be doing any of the work, it should be all them,” Hale said.

Caroline County Commissioner Larry Porter asked how he could better advocate for the AMP program through funding initiatives or otherwise. Maggie Abbott, an AMP student, said commissioners should consider the investment in the future.

“You have to think about the fact that we’re the future. We are going to be the future of the economy and the workplace and if you help prepare us for what we’re doing here then you’re basically setting up a good future,” Abbott said. “If you think about it everything that you own was manufactured and I hate to say somebody’s got to do it, and those somebodies are going to be us.”

Kylie Witter, another student of the AMP program, said just being in the program increases a student’s value to the workforce.

“We can use power tools, we have so many skills just in high school that we can use out of high school, that already sets us up for a great future,” Witter said. “Like she said, we’re the future so if we start early we’re good to have it for the rest of their lives.”

Porter said one of the important parts of the program to him is making a workforce for his county.

Josh Zimmerman, vice president of Untangled Minds, the organization behind creating the AMP curriculum, said another important aspect of the program is the student’s ability to apply their learned skills in other areas of their lives.

“The skills that they’re working with in this program are supporting other skills in other fields,” Zimmerman said. “Math for the sake of math in a math class doesn’t mean anything until you can apply it to something useful in the real world; they’re doing that here and I think that’s a huge advantage of this program.”

The AMP program partners with a multitude of businesses including Tanglewood Conservatories, PRS Guitars, Winchester Construction, Darr Container, Dixon Valve, Hinckley Yachts, Combined Technology Solutions, Chesapeake College, Cambridge International, Maryland Plastics, Warrens Wood Works, REEB Millwork and REC Inc.

Five students will start internships with partnering companies. Witter will begin a marketing internship with Tanglewood Conservatories, with her classmate Colton Muir beginning an internship at the business in the summer. Ronald Christopher also will intern for Tanglewood Conservatories, operating CNC manufacturing machines.

Marcys Gould and Robert Cody Hunter also will both begin internships at Combined Technology Solutions in the summer.

In 2014, the Tanglewood began exploring Untangled Minds, an educational program partnership with Caroline County Public Schools and several local businesses, set out to develop a program to help students excel in an advanced manufacturing setting.

Untangled Minds’ goal is to get students in a fast-track, career-ready program that would set them up for success in the advanced manufacturing industry right out of high school. From there, the Caroline Career and Technology Center developed the AMP Program in partnership with Untangled Minds, Tanglewood Conservatories and other Mid-Shore businesses.

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