Up Skill Your EmployeesTalent! That’s what employers are clamoring for. Now, with unemployment levels dropping, the pressure is on in every business sector to find and keep talent.

But it’s not just about finding talent, it’s also about keeping it in today’s competitive marketplace.

So when six Hudson Valley human services agencies seeking to strengthen their local workforce heard about Jobs Waiting’s training incentives, they immediately applied.

Through a federally funded grant program, they were able to “upskill” a cohort of employees, leading to increased advancement opportunities and greater employee satisfaction, and more positive outcomes for the people receiving supports.

Their primary goal was to develop the skills of Frontline Supervisors (FLS), who in turn would better support their reports, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). Additionally, they were aiming to reduce DSP turnover and vacancy rates, last measured in 2016 in New York State at 31 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

“The training has had a wonderful ripple effect,” explains Alice M. Dickey, SHRM-SCP, Director of Human Resources at New Horizons Resources, Inc., the lead agency in the collaborative. “Our Frontline Supervisors have a new approach to leadership. They model the approach for our Direct Support Professionals, who help the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve live more fulfilling lives,” she says.

Now, Regional Collaboration

The idea to further develop FLS was already in the works when Dickey heard about Jobs Waiting’s Customized Incumbent Worker Training Program. Her organization facilitated the funding application, which covered approximately 50 percent of the cost of training.

In addition to New Horizons Resources, Inc., participating agencies include Cardinal Hayes Home for Children, Crystal Run Village, ARC of Dutchess, Abilities First, and Devereux. By the program’s end this summer, a total of 55 people will have participated in the training, which was based on a curriculum provided by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP).

Frontline supervisors are often promoted from DSP positions with little training to cope with new administrative responsibilities. Through role plays, lectures, homework and peer group discussions, FLS gained the skills needed to interact with multiple stakeholders: families, the DSPs they supervise, their own supervisors, and the individuals served by the agency, according to Monica Robinson, New Horizons Resources, Inc. Staff Development Coordinator.

“We’ve heard from participants that the training has been valuable,” says Robinson. “Employees feel we’ve invested in them. They learn about their roles here, and interact with their colleagues at our sister agencies. They learn about common challenges, which gives them a global view of what’s happening in our field and in the region.”

Cooperation amid competition

With a war on talent raging, the multi-agency cooperation on training fostered a collaborative atmosphere among a peer group of colleagues, an added benefit that is expected to have lasting effects, adds Dickey.

“Working together in this way has built community in our health and human services sector. We’re not working in silos; we’re sharing best practices. Investing in our supervisory staff creates a stronger Direct Support Professional workforce, and ultimately, that means a better experience for all of the individuals our agencies serve,” she says.

So far, the agencies have been thrilled with the positive feedback they have received. Two participants have already been promoted at their agencies, with additional promotions likely in the near future. Plans are underway to track the success of the employees and conduct further analysis on the impact of their training on retention.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” says Dickey. “Jobs Waiting has been incredibly supportive. We’re reaping the benefits!”



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