OPWDD Commissioner and MVCC President Announce Direct Support Microcredential Program

Utica, NY – Kerri Neifeld, Commissioner for the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), joined MVCC President Randall VanWagoner, Ph.D., and Upstate Caring Partners Executive Director Geno DeCondo today to announce the start of the college’s direct support microcredential program to provide training that leads to national certification in the field of developmental disabilities.

The program was developed in partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY) and OPWDD to recognize the distinct skills and competencies required of today’s direct support professionals. Similar classes are being held at participating SUNY colleges throughout the state. SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said, “There is a great need for direct support professionals and education is a powerful tool to help people succeed in joining this honorable profession to care for New York’s families. Through our strong partnership with OPWDD, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, our campuses, and other partners, SUNY’s microcredential program will only expand further. We thank Mohawk Valley Community College President Randall VanWagoner, Ph. D. and his team for their commitment to training the direct support workforce and for building awareness so more New Yorkers sign up.”

“Direct Support Professionals deserve the esteem that goes hand in hand with earning college certifications and credits, as well as the sense of empowerment that comes from learning new skills to apply on the job,” explained Kerri Neifeld, OPWDD Commissioner. “OPWDD is excited for this partnership with SUNY and the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals to encourage more people to join us in this rewarding field of supporting people with developmental disabilities to live the lives of their choosing. Congratulations to SUNY Mohawk Valley Community College for their launch and commitment to this impactful program.”

Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) President Randall VanWagoner, Ph.D., added, “In the face of a growing workforce crisis impacting the field of Direct Support Professionals, this partnership marks a significant stride forward. We are proud to join forces with Upstate Caring Partners, SUNY and OPWDD to create an innovative microcredential program. This program will empower DSPs with specialized skills and knowledge, enhancing their ability to provide top-notch care to individuals with developmental disabilities. It is a testament to our collective commitment to the well-being of our community and our dedication to fostering excellence in care.”

Supported through $5 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), this microcredential program aims to assist direct support staff already working in the profession and those new to the developmental disabilities field in earning college credits that meet requirements for certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Students will be able to secure national certification and college credit toward a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. The grant program covers tuition, certification, fees, books, and student support, and students can earn a one-time $750 stipend. Each participating SUNY campus is working with an OPWDD-operated or affiliated provider partner to help upskill incumbent workers or to provide internships for those new to the field.

“Our agency genuinely appreciates OPWDD making this investment in enhancing direct support professionals’ skills and knowledge, and we are excited to be partnering with MVCC on this microcredential program,” said Upstate Caring Partners Executive Director Geno DeCondo. “Education leads to opportunities for advancement in this field and is essential to attracting and retaining staff who are committed to the complex and compassionate work that DSPs perform each and every day. We are grateful to be a part of this important collaboration.”

National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals President/Chief Executive Officer Joseph M. Macbeth emphasizes the importance of this initiative. “To effectively address longstanding systemic issues surrounding the direct care workforce requires bold, new ideas and strategies. It is critical that we find ways to attract and recognize a new generation of professionals. The NADSP is honored to work with the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the State University of New York (SUNY) on creating a pathway to national certification for SUNY students that prepares them with the knowledge, skills, and values that are required to build quality supports for New Yorkers with disabilities.”

Enrolled students not yet working in the developmental disabilities field will be offered work-based learning opportunities with OPWDD or OPWDD-certified service providers. In addition, the Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation—the state’s leading resource and support system for OPWDD provider agencies and support professionals—will offer training, coaching, and mentoring supports to providers participating in the program.

These microcredential programs build on Governor Kathy Hochul’s efforts to expand the direct service professional workforce and address worker shortages. Last fall, OPWDD entered a three-year, $10-million partnership with NADSP to offer three levels of credentialing for direct support professionals and frontline supervisor certification through its E-Badge Academy. About SUNY’s Microcredential Program This fall, SUNY will offer nearly 600 microcredentials at 51 of its 64 campuses. Microcredentials are smaller, academic- and skills-focused credentials that can be completed in months, not years. SUNY’s program is designed to provide earners with immediate workforce-ready skills, knowledge, and experience, while also providing a pathway to additional credentials, certificates, and degrees. Recognized with the inaugural Business Council of New York State Workforce Innovation Award in Higher Education, SUNY microcredentials increase access to higher education by providing another pathway for New Yorkers to earn the credentials they need to meet their academic and career goals, all while collaboratively meeting the needs of New York businesses and industry.

The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) provides high-quality person-centered supports and services to people with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and other neurological impairments. OPWDD provides services directly and through a network of over 600 not-for-profit providers. OPWDD’s mission is to help people live richer lives that include meaningful relationships, good health, personal growth, and a home within their community. For more information, visit www.opwdd.ny.gov or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About MVCC
Mohawk Valley Community College is New York State’s first community college with a mission to provide accessible, highquality educational opportunities for everyone. As the community’s college, MVCC is committed to student success through partnerships, transfer and career pathways, and personal enrichment. With campuses in Utica and Rome, MVCC is the region’s primary provider of college education, offering 90 degree and certificate options for its enrollment of 6,000 full- and part-time students. MVCC also serves an additional 6,000 people through its corporate and community education programs, and its campuses welcome more than 50,000 people annually for community events. For more information, visit mvcc.edu.

About Upstate Caring Partners
Upstate Caring Partners provides innovative programs and services that support and create opportunities for people of all abilities. For more information visit our website at www.upstatecp.org

About The State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit www.suny.edu. 



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