Kristiyan Mihaylov was surprised to see everything happening under the roof of 140 Castle Drive in Madison, Alabama, when he first showed up.
He was ready to study how KTECH helps prepare its students for the workforce, but he wasn’t aware of how involved KTECH and Kids to Love are in the lives of their students and the children in foster care they serve.
“I was not prepared to see that you help individuals from such an early age,” he said. “You help them learn that the world is not some awful place, and that people can help them get on their feet and to trust that they can do better in life with support of people like Kids to Love.”
Mihaylov is a Fellow in the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative Fellowship
Program, a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. YTILI is a program for emerging entrepreneurs in Europe that allows participants to learn more about American business and industry, while they also build leadership skills and make networking contacts they can use once they return home.
Mihaylov is co-founder of the Professional Association of Robotics and Automation in Bulgaria. He is one of six participants in YTILI that spent a month in Huntsville, hosted by Global Ties Alabama.
When he returns home, Mihaylov will use what he learned at KTECH to help tackle the task of bridging the gap between education in robotics and manufacturing in Bulgaria.
“I really like what KTECH does, and that’s why I would like to implement it with the help of KTECH and Kids to Love,” he said. “Because what is unique is that you’re not only supporting students with hardware skills, but you teach them practical skills when it comes to soft skills, like how to present, how to onboard in a job interview, how to build their credit score and many other things.”
In Bulgaria, Mihaylov said the automotive industry is a leader when it comes to automation and the implementation of robots, as well as the food industry, electronics and others.
“In the last few years, collaborative robots have become more and more popular,” he said. “More and more factories invest in automation.”
He wants to see more workforce development in his home country for jobs in robotics and manufacturing and hopes he can implement some new initiatives that he’s learned about at KTECH. He said one of the biggest differences between industry in the two countries is the speed of collaboration in the U.S. among local governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations.
“This is the most fascinating part that I had a chance to learn. The whole ecosystem has its own vision and they work together to achieve this,” he said. “And this is something that I would like to help when I go back to Bulgaria.”
KTECH Director Dorothy Havens said having Kristiyan here and being a part of the YTILI program has been a wonderful surprise, and she looks forward to seeing what Mihaylov does once he returns home.
“Being part of the YTILI program has been a wonderful surprise. We had no idea what to expect and the experience has been amazing!” Havens said. “What makes it so special is that Kristiyan is a talented, smart, motivated young leader who embraces all experiences. He is passionate and is anxious to learn about KTECH, our community, and our families.
“He is inspired to create an academy in Bulgaria, which will have the elements of the hard and soft skills we teach at KTECH. He hopes to continue to explore the connections he has made here for future opportunities. The connection I have made with Kristiyan will definitely continue, and we are going to miss him.”
Mihaylov also said he has enjoyed getting out in Huntsville and meeting people. He got to see the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, tour the Jack Daniels Distillery’s manufacturing operations in Lynchburg, Tenn., meet local government officials, and attend a local school robotics competition.
“I’m having such a good time here,” he said. “And of course, I’d never tried sweet potatoes before. I like them.”
He said he is thankful to everyone with KTECH and Global Ties Alabama for the experience.
“I would like to give my huge thanks to all of you for showing me that Huntsville is a great place with amazing opportunities,” he said.