Humanim's Direct Support Professional Apprenticeship Program

Like all human services organizations, Humanim considers the Direct Support Professional (DSP) the backbone of our organization and a critical piece to meeting our mission. And yet, throughout the profession, DSPs have historically been underpaid and undertrained. An unstable work environment and lack of investment in training can lead to a high turnover rate which negatively affects the quality of care for clients and is costly to an organization. While DSPs are critical to the health of our communities, they often lack solid employment and fair pay.  


With our expertise in workforce development and human services, we realized that our organization was in a unique position to provide growth opportunities and training for our DSP staff. So, in 2019, thanks to the support of the Maryland Department of Labor, we established the Direct Support Professional Apprenticeship Program — the only program of its kind in the state of Maryland.


To help make the most impact possible, we have partnered with similar human services organizations around the state, including the Arc of Baltimore, the Arc of Northern Chesapeake, the Arc of Howard County, Bello Machre, Creative Options, and a growing list of Maryland public schools. This partnership initiative lets us establish consistent approaches for a successful DSP training across the industry and feed the employment pipeline. “Partnering with Humanim on the MD Direct Support Professional Apprenticeship Program has made a great impact on our Direct Support Professional Apprentices,” says Shelby Anderson, the Training and Development Coordinator at the Arc Northern Chesapeake Region. “This program gives them the opportunity to connect with peers across Maryland, share knowledge, build skills, and collaboratively improve the quality of life of the people they support.”


The Program itself focuses on mastering professional standards of practice with a multitude of trainings that follow the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) standards to identify the levels of skills, knowledge, and ethical principles needed to be an effective DSP. Our two apprenticeship tracks, one for adults and one for youth, provide paid, on-the-job training, journeyworkers (mentors) for each participant, and prepares apprentices to earn nationally recognized DSP Certification with guaranteed pay increases as certification is achieved.


The DSP Apprenticeship Program for youth is designed to develop impactful career paths for graduating high school seniors and we are currently partnered with Howard and Baltimore County Schools. For both youth and adult apprentices, the Apprenticeship Program is an opportunity to explore the direct support field and build resumes for whatever lies ahead. The work serves as a good foundation for other meaningful careers, such as nursing, CNA work and other healthcare related professions that are currently struggling to obtain and retain qualified individuals. We see this program as an opportunity to train our employees to be better at their jobs, but also as an extension of our mission to create career opportunities and promote economic stability.


On her experience in the program, youth apprentice Clare, says: “The DSP Apprenticeship Program at Humanim has helped me learn so much about myself. This program is an incredible opportunity for self-growth and professional development, and the skills that I have picked up will forever be valuable to me. I am more prepared for my future because of this apprenticeship”.


By providing this Apprenticeship Program to professionals and those looking for a new career and opportunity, we hope to add solutions to the shared challenges of recruiting and retaining DSPs while maintaining quality services for the individuals we all serve. Over the next 18 months, we have the opportunity to extend the program to over 130 participants, including 70+ youth. We are actively recruiting new human service partners, school partners, and apprentices for upcoming training. Please visit us at or email to learn more about options for joining the growing partnership or for your personal professional development, training for your staff, or opportunities for your students.


Source: Humanim