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New Apprenticeship Program for Personal Care Attendants

A new national training model seeks to promote a highly qualified, stable workforce of professional caregivers

A new training opportunity, the Direct Support Professional Registered Apprenticeship Program, will assist direct support professionals (such as hired caregivers and aides) in advancing in this essential field, say the program’s creators, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR).

Approved by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship, the program addresses the need for “a quality, competency-based model of instruction” that can be tailored to meet unique state and regional caregiving needs, say its creators.  

Through on-the-job and classroom learning situations, the program will teach direct support professionals (DSPs) how to better support their clients in leading healthy and active lives in their communities.  “Community-inclusive supports offer the best opportunity for high quality lives for individuals receiving supports,” says NADSP President Lisa Burck.  “The DSP Registered Apprenticeship Program addresses a long-standing need to provide professional competency-based and job-specific training to ensure a proficient direct support workforce in the years ahead.” 

Says ANCOR CEO Renee Pietrangelo,  “The program’s focus on empowerment and participation is critical because people who rely on human support services such as people with disabilities, mental health or chronic health conditions are frequently and unnecessarily isolated and excluded from living and working in their communities.”

Direct support professional job titles vary and include in-home support worker, personal assistant, home health aide, job coach, direct support worker and independent living skills instructor. 

No matter the title, the field currently is facing a critical and alarming shortage of workers, say Burck and Pietrangelo, citing high turnover due to low wages, limited training and little recognition of DSP's skilled work.  They also note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that one million new DSPs will be needed by 2016 to meet the needs of an aging population. 

The DSP Registered Apprenticeship Program was developed in accordance with the basic standards recommended by the federal office of apprenticeship.  Sponsoring provider agencies can work with their state or regional offices of apprenticeship or state apprenticeship agency to establish a training program that meets their specific needs. 

Agencies that sponsor a local DSP apprenticeship program must adhere to a written plan outlining the terms and conditions for the recruitment, selection, employment, training, supervision and competency assessment of DSP apprentices.  DSP apprentices must fulfill the sponsoring agency’s specific requirements as well as those outlined in the master apprenticeship program. (Click here to learn more about the approved DSP Registered Apprenticeship Program Standards.)


The mission of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals is to "promote the development of a highly competent human services workforce that supports individuals in achieving their life goals."

NADSP has developed a national agenda to strengthen the direct support workforce.  It goals are:

  • to enhance the status of DSPs and provide them with better access to high quality education and lifelong learning;
  • to strengthen collaboration between DSPs, self-advocates, those who receive supports and families;
  • to promote system reforms that provides incentives for DSP education, increased compensation and access to career pathways; and
  • to support the implementation of a national voluntary credentialing process for DSPs.

Key NADSP programs for achieving this mission are the Direct Support Professional Credentialing Program, the DSP Code of Ethics, and the Moving Mountains Award for organizations demonstrating best practices in workforce development. 


The American Network of Community Options and Resources is a national nonprofit association representing private agencies that provide community living and employment supports. 

ANCOR advocates before Congress and federal agencies on the crucial role private providers play in enhancing and supporting the lives of people with disabilities and their families.  Through its National Advocacy Campaign (NAC), ANCOR seeks to obtain the resources to recruit, train and retain a sustainable direct support workforce.  Work with the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship is an important function of the NAC.  Visit for more information.

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