A DSP Apprenticeship Program At The Arc Lexington

Sep 14, 2021 | Campaigns, News

Submitted By: Terry Swierzowski, The Arc Lexington

The Arc of Lexington implemented a two-year program that combines job-related instruction courses through Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) and On-the-Job-Training (OJT) work processes that are determined by the NYS Department of Labor (DOL). The job-related courses provided by FMCC are at no cost to the employee and tuition is fully funded by a grant available through SUNY, NYS DOL, and Lexington.

Lexington staff members who successfully complete all program requirements are awarded a Certificate in Individual Studies with the title of Direct Support Professional through the SUNY System and FMCC, up to 35 college credits to be applied toward an Associates or Bachelor’s degree, and an Apprenticeship Credential as a skilled worker under the DOL Direct Support Professional Job Trade classification.

Impact Of The Program

The Apprenticeship program has provided a great opportunity for staff members to further their education and hone their skills to best support people with disabilities. The tuition assistance and career development opportunities this program presents greatly impact the agency with retention and lower turnover in the important DSP role as well as a recruitment tool. The program also develops impactful leaders and a quality workforce.

The program is only available to those who are in a direct support role at the agency. It provides tuition that is fully funded for the employee (up to 35 college credits) and the ability to improve their job skills with on-the-job work processes, and advisement and mentorship from our partner college, our agency and the Department of Labor.


Steps To Implement A Similar DSP Program

    1. Reviewed grant/program specifics on NYS website
    2. Met with representatives from Fulton-Montgomery Community College to see if they would partner with us for the program
    3. Applied for the grant
    4. Worked on creation of curriculum based on DSP training needs
    5. Established procedures for tracking of classes, employee participation and milestone check ins.
    6. Created a reporting mechanism between apprentices, FMCC and the state representative monitoring the program to ensure adequate progress and required follow up is complete
    7. Identified an HR department employee to oversee the apprenticeship program and act as a point of contact for all participating entities

How could other organizations replicate your efforts?

By researching the program, partnering with a local community college and the Department of Labor, and applying for the grant through NYS. This program grant is specific to New York State.

Challenges You May Encounter

Communicating the program to the agency, supervisors, and to direct support staff members. Other agencies can confront the challenge by creating a good communication plan. Getting DSPs to participate – can confront this challenge by keeping good communication with management about the program and having supervisors connect with appropriate candidates and encouraging their participation.

About The Arc Lexington

Lexington provides services and supports in Fulton, Albany and Schoharie Counties to approximately 1,300 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, mental illness, cerebral palsy, physical disabilities, epilepsy and traumatic brain injuries. Lexington’s person-first approach puts the emphasis on each person’s needs, wants and desires rather than their disability. From how we structure program activities to the language we use at our agency, we are committed to fostering an environment where the people we support are not only respected and valued, but also play an integral role in Lexington’s day-to-day operations. Lexington continues to expand and diversify while remaining deeply committed to its core values and mission of excellence – making Lexington a great place for people with disabilities and for our employees.

Help Us Carry Out Our Mission

You can join The National Alliance For Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) through NADSP Membership, and support us to elevate the status of direct support professionals.

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