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MO Launches Apprenticeships for Direct-Support Professionals

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Missouri is launching an apprenticeship program to expand talent pipelines for Direct Support Professionals, who work with people with developmental disabilities.

The Show-Me State, like many others, is facing a serious direct-care workforce shortage. To answer the need, the program Missouri Talent Pathways was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Duane Shumate, state coordinator of employment and community engagement in the developmental disabilities division of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, said it blends on-the-job mentoring with technical instruction, with participants eventually becoming Certified Direct Support Professionals.

"It tremendously impacts families and the individuals with a disability, that the families are having to take a lot of time off of work to provide care, because there's not an adequate workforce," Shumate explained. "It just creates a lot of risk and concern by having such a high turnover in this field currently."

In addition to reducing the impact of high turnover rates, Shumate pointed out another goal is to make sure apprentices are well-trained in national best practices to support people with developmental disabilities in achieving their own personal goals and outcomes.

Jessica Bax, director of the division, said Missouri is approaching the workforce shortage from multiple angles. She noted Gov. Mike Parson supports increasing the reimbursement rates for direct-care providers, along with the apprenticeships and other talent-pipeline programs.

"One of the major benefits of having an apprenticeship program as a talent pipeline is the proven benefits of the tenure," Bax emphasized. "Individuals tend to stay in the employment, and one of the biggest impacts on the success of the individuals that we serve is consistency."

Data from the Department of Labor shows three years after completing an apprenticeship, folks are often still employed at a nearly 90% retention rate.

Bax added the program is the first of its kind, and other states are looking to Missouri to replicate the model.