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MVCC starts microcredential program for direct-support professionals

By Traci DeLore (


The Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) campus in Utica. (PHOTO CREDIT: MVCC WEBSITE)

UTICA, N.Y. — Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) has launched a new direct support microcredential program, developed in partnership with SUNY and the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), to provide training that leads to national certification in the field of developmental disabilities.

The program recognizes the skills and competencies required of direct-support professionals. Similar classes are offered at participating SUNY colleges throughout the state.

“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,” SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said in a news release. 

Supported through $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the program aims to assist existing and new direct-support staff in earning college credits that meet requirements for certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. Students will be able to secure certification and college credit toward a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. The grant program covers tuition, certification, fees, books, and student support. Students can earn a one-time $750 stipend. 

“Direct support professionals (DSPs) 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,” OPWDD Commissioner Kerri Neifeld said. “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.”

Each participating SUNY campus works with an OPWDD-operated or affiliated provider partner to help upskill incumbent workers or provide internships for those new to the field. Enrolled students not yet working in the developmental-disabilities field will be offered work-based learning opportunities with OPWDD or certified service providers. The Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation will also offer training, coaching, and mentoring supports to providers participating in the program.

“In the face of a growing workforce crisis impacting the field of direct-support professionals, this partnership marks a significant stride forward,” MVCC President Randall VanWagoner said. “We are proud to join forces with Upstate Caring Partners, SUNY, and OPWDD to create an innovative microcredential program.”

This fall, SUNY will offer nearly 600 microcredentials at 51 of its 64 campuses. Microcredentials are smaller academic- and skill-focused credentials that can be completed in months instead of years. They provide learners with immediate workforce-ready skills, knowledge, and experience along with a pathway to additional credentials, certificates, or degrees.

“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,” Upstate Caring Partners Executive Director Geno DeCondo said. “We are grateful to be a part of this important collaboration.”

MVCC, with campuses in Utica and Rome, offers 90 degree and certificate options to 6,000 full-time and part-time students. It also serves an additional 6,000 people through its corporate and community-education programs.

Upstate Caring Partners provides special-education, residential, and community programs and services.