Michigan Shifting Gears helps professionals, veterans transition to new careers

April 11, 2012

in MEDC Programs,Talent Enhancement

Participants in Michigan Shifting Gears, a unique career training program developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Sensei Inc., don’t fit the typical image of student trainees.  Most are seasoned professionals who’ve enjoyed successful careers in big Michigan businesses – businesses that took a direct hit in the global economic downturn.   Now they’re faced with starting over at a time when they thought they’d be hitting their stride.

Michigan Shifting Gears is an innovative, low-cost initiative designed to help transitioning professionals make the move to new opportunities in small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups.

“Michigan needs the skills these professionals have acquired in a lifetime of work, retooled to meet the demands of innovative ventures that are kick-starting the state’s economy,” said Michael Finney, President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). “Michigan Shifting Gears will help them understand the entrepreneurial environment and re-package their skills to take advantage of great jobs in Michigan companies.”

First launched in 2009 in partnership with Ann Arbor SPARK, Michigan Shifting Gears is now open to transitioning professionals from all over the state.  The next session of Michigan Shifting Gears begins on April 30 in Lansing, with registration open through April 23.

The April 30 session also marks the launch of Shifting Heroes, a new feature of the program designed to integrate returning veterans in to the Shifting Gears experience, and help them re-imagine and re-frame the skills they acquired in the service for jobs in the private sector.

“Returning veterans often need help translating their valuable skills into the language of employers,” said Amy Cell, MEDC’s Senior Vice President of Talent Enhancement.  “When veterans sign up for Shifting Gears, they will be paired with an employed veteran volunteer who will partner with businesses to assist our Michigan Heroes transition to the next phase of their careers.
Participants in Michigan Shifting Gears receive professional career assessment and career coaching, attend eight days of workshops and networking events, and take part in a three-day small business simulation.  Each student is paired with a volunteer mentor from the entrepreneurial community who works one-on-one to help them improve their small business skills and communicate effectively during the hiring process.  Each participant also must complete an 80-hour pro bono internship with a small, early-stage Michigan business.

Participation fee for the intensive 16-week Michigan Shifting Gears program is $500.     Visit here to learn more about the pre-requisites for enrolling in Michigan Shifting Gears, and here to register for the April 30 session.

Michigan Shifting Gears has an impressive success rate to date, with 49 percent of participants landing new jobs within three months of completing the program.

“I had a wide breadth of experience at General Motors and I wanted to be able to leverage my skill set in a start-up or small company,” said David Newhouse, a Shifting Gears graduate who now serves as president for InterClean Equipment, Inc. “Shifting Gears enabled me to gain a greater awareness and sensitivity for the issues a small company faces.”

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