Ann Arbor Spark will kick off its fourth Shifting Gears program this fall. Applications to the 2010 Shifting Gears program are due on Sept. 3. Leading up to the fall Shifting Gears program, Spark also announced five information sessions beginning Aug. 3.

Shifting Gears, an intensive four-month program, provides professional career coaching for executive talent seeking opportunities in entrepreneurial and emerging businesses.

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“Shifting Gears has a proven track record of helping corporate talent find meaningful jobs at local start-ups,” said Michael A. Finney, Ann Arbor Spark CEO. “In its three previous offerings, 42 people participated in Shifting Gears, and, to date, 28 of them have landed jobs in southeast Michigan. Fast growth area firms including Adaptive Materials Inc., SRI and Compendia Bioscience have all hired Shifting Gears graduates.”

Shifting Gears includes three distinct phases of class-based and real-world experience to help executive talent transform their career:

* First gear is career transitions into small businesses with in-class      sessions and workshops on small business foundations.
* Second gear is a 3-day intensive practice simulation, followed by an  80-hour pro bono practicum project with a small business.
* Third gear is launch point readiness with special networking opportunities, practice interviews and career advice from a mentor who has extensive contacts with innovative, growing companies.

“Shifting Gears program was instrumental in exposing me to the unique challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship and small, innovation-driven firms,” said Scott Belanger, principal engineer, SRI International.

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Shifting Gears is designed to increase the success of individuals who want to leverage their career experiences and education to help small businesses grow. Shifting Gears helps highly skilled and talented professionals who want to increase their effectiveness and capabilities in the competitive environments of small businesses.

Recently, Oakland Community College added the Shifting Gears program to its offerings and graduated 16 participants.

Shifting Gears information sessions will be offered on Aug. 3, 11, 16 and 25 and Sept. 1. These free information sessions, held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Spark East in Ypsilanti, will explain how the Shifting Gears program works and help attendees understand how it might help to advance their careers.

For more information on Shifting Gears, visit www.AnnArborUSA.org/Shifting-Gears/.

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