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Not All Pay Is In Dollars

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Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the backbone of the intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) system. They provide assistance to people with developmental disabilities to live independent, productive lives. According to Melody Johnson, director of learning and professional development at ARC of Monroe, it is a demanding but beyond rewarding job.

 “Our nearly 500 DSPs at ARC of Monroe inspire, encourage, and empower people with life challenges to be integrated into their communities and achieve their fullest potential,” Johnson said. “We rely so heavily on them. They are an integral part of people’s lives. And the bonds they make with those they support are beautiful to see.”

According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), the stability of the direct support workforce has been a long-standing issue across disability service systems. AAIDD estimated that nationally, there are more than 1 million new direct support positions to be filled. In New York State, one in four, or roughly 25%, of DSP positions are vacant, according to a recent survey by New York Disability Advocates. This growing demand — combined with the limited availability of training and education — has uncovered a unique opportunity.

Answering the Call

Seeing a strong need, the Bryant & Stratton College Workforce Solutions group met with ARC of Monroe and built a four-week training program designed for DSPs. The content of the program revolves around the 23 DSP Competencies and the DSP Code of Ethics, endorsed by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Candidates who successfully complete the program will become full-time DSPs at ARC of Monroe.

The program runs five days a week. From Monday through Thursday, participants have classroom instruction at Bryant & Stratton’s Henrietta campus. On Fridays, students shadow ARC of Monroe team members across its 30 residential homes and numerous day programs. Each cohort will comprise a maximum of 15 students. No I/DD experience is required to join this program. Students will be paid $14.20 per hour to start and, upon completion, receive a salary increase to $17.75 per hour. In return, participants are required to make a one-year commitment to that role within ARC of Monroe.

Built Different. For You.

“There was nothing like this, so we built it,” said Mike Mariani, Bryant & Stratton College Rochester campus director. “Our Workforce Solutions group has done an amazing job working with ARC of Monroe to develop a customized paid training program. And even better, students who complete the program get a raise and a job! We are thrilled to be a partner on this innovative approach.”

The Core Competencies that guide DSPs include seven goal areas, covering all aspects of the person’s life and also emphasize the importance of professionalism in direct support:

• Putting People First

• Building and Maintaining Positive Relationships

• Demonstrating Professionalism

• Supporting Good Health

• Supporting Safety

• Having a Home

• Being Active and Productive in Society

Within each goal, there are competency areas defined by specific skills that can be demonstrated by a DSP in their work. These include a wide range of technical skills, such as medication administration, as well as value-based skills, such as advocating for the individual being supported.

The Wage Game

While some health aides and personal care attendants are typically considered essential, DSPs — those who work with people with I/DDs to help them stay as independent as possible by, for example, helping them to eat, dress, and wash themselves — are not. And when these positions are vacant, it leaves many without the support they need for a good quality of life and to live successfully in the community.

In August 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the New York State OPWDD entered into a $10 million partnership with the NADSP. The goal was to expand opportunities for professional credentialing for DSPs in the developmental disabilities field throughout New York State. 

“We are thrilled that we can offer paid training. It’s a game changer,” said Governor Hochul.

Offering 11 degrees and five diploma programs, Bryant & Stratton College Workforce Solutions prepares students for the rigorous, fast-paced, and rewarding aspects of people care. We help build an organization’s talent pipeline and prepare employees for a wide range of clinical and nonclinical roles.

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“Building this training course for ARC of Monroe is a great example of how we broadly approach problem-solving for our partners and organizations,” said Mariani. “We know that 76% of healthcare business leaders report a talent shortage in key roles. Building a talent pipeline, addressing skills gaps, and developing, engaging, and retaining employees is a primary focus.”

Become a Personal Care Aide

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for Personal Care Aides are expected to be excellent over the coming years. The agency projects a job growth rate of 37% for this occupation between 2016 and 2026. Personal Care Aides work in a variety of settings, including skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, group homes, residential centers, assisted living facilities, and private homes. Enrollment in the Medical Assisting associate degree program at Bryant & Stratton College is one path toward becoming qualified to work as a Personal Care Aide. In some states, students working toward a Medical Assisting associate degree may qualify to take the competency exam for Personal Care Aide certification/licensure based on their studies in that program. Many students take advantage of that opportunity as a means of gaining practical experience in the healthcare field and earning a paycheck as they work to earn their Medical Assistant credentials.

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