Direct Support Professionals Career Development Program

NJACP, in partnership with The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE), has entered into an agreement with the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development to establish the Direct Support Professionals Career Development Program (DSPCDP). The goals of the initiative are to recruit and train individuals, for careers as Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), as well as providing best in-class training for those already working in the field. This program applies to all DSPs throughout the state of New Jersey. All are encouraged to apply!

Who Are Direct Support Professionals?

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) assist people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in realizing their full potential and becoming valued and participating members of their communities. Their work is complex and goes well beyond caregiving, requiring skills including independent problem solving, decision making, behavioral assessment and prevention, medication administration, health and allied health treatment, teaching new skills, crisis prevention and intervention and more.

Daily tasks include:

  • Assisting clients with daily tasks, including cooking, shopping, attending appointments, housekeeping, and medication management
  • Instructing and motivating individuals to perform specific tasks independently
  • Providing guidance on essential life skills, including interpersonal interactions, seeking assistance, financial management, and more
  • Maintaining records of a clients’ personal information, encompassing casework notes, daily activities, medication logs, financial documents, and behavioral assessments

Learn more about the DSP field, visit dspnj.org.

Program Components and Eligibility

High School: High school students may pursue an internship and training that allows first-hand experience working with individuals with IDD. Students will work alongside experienced Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in providing services and supports. A stipend will be provided, and students can check with their guidance counselors to determine if work will translate into high school credits. Students must be 18 years old to participate.

Workforce Development Certification: The program is also for those seeking a change in career, as well as DSPs that wish to increase their skills. Interested applicants who live in Bergen County or the surrounding areas can apply to Bergen Community College. Interested applicants who live in Gloucester and Cumberland counties can apply to Rowan College of South Jersey. Coursework will allow for the development of skills and knowledge of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) field.

Academic Advancement: Eligible DSPs can go to Community College tuition-free with the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG)

Based on household income, eligible New Jerseyans ages 18 and up, including NJ Dreamers, can pursue their first associate’s degree tuition-free or for an affordable, reduced tuition at their local community college. Upon graduating from community college, eligible students can transfer to a New Jersey public four-year college or university and receive additional funding for tuition through the Garden State Guarantee.

To be eligible for the Community College Opportunity Grant, students must:

• Be a New Jersey resident with a household Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) between $0 and $100,000

• Complete the FAFSA or NJ Alternative Financial Aid Application by applicable state deadlines

• Enroll in at least six (6) credits per semester at one of New Jersey’s community colleges

• Have not yet earned a college degree

• Make satisfactory academic progress

    Advancement for Current DSPs

    In addition to ensuring new DSPs are properly training before entering the field, NJACP and OSHE are dedicated to the advancement of our current workforce. There are a variety of virtual trainings offered on the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) website.

      New Jersey’s College of Direct Support (CDS) offers a series of required courses to improve the skills of workers who support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The CDS’s Career Paths aim to improve the skills and professionalism of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). The CDS’s training is self-paced, multimedia, and flexible. It offers content for entry-level staff and experienced professionals.

      With the help of these resources, DSPs can elevate in the field and advance to other occupations such as:

      • Social Work Assistant
      • Human Services Assistant
      • Behavioral Health Technician
      • Occupational Therapy Assistant
      • Case Management Assistant
      • Community Outreach Coordinator

      Resources to Know

      Apply to the DSPCD Program!

      If you have any questions or concerns regarding the program, please contact Tori Villafana, DSP Mentorship Program Coordinator, at tvillafana@njacp.org.

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