ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Twelve SUNY campuses across the state will soon be offering courses for those who currently are or want to become direct support professionals.

“Direct support professionals are the folks who work with, care for, advocate with folks with developmental disabilities,” said Cynthia Proctor, SUNY Director of Communications and Economic Policy Development.

Blaise Bryant is a communications specialist with the NYS Association on Independent living and says he knows first hand just how important these workers are.

“Homecare workers allowed me, in addition to working my full time job, be a part of the community and advocating for a world that is inclusive and assessable for people with disabilities,” said Bryant.

But like with many industries, there’s a shortage of these workers.

“There’s about 130,000 people with developmental disabilities in this state and the vacancy rate for open positions ranges by something like 17-27 %,” said Proctor.

In an effort to grow the workforce, 12 SUNY campuses around the state will be offering college courses to train those wanting to work with people with disabilities, as well as provide additional education for those already working in the field. The program ranges between 2 and 5 classes.

“They provide the earner with immediate workforce ready skills. So they will be able to hit the job understanding what the work is, how the theory and practice come together, how they meet state and national standards, but at the same time they’re also earning college credit,” said Proctor.

The program is supported by funding through the American Rescue Plan.

“This program will pay for tuition fees, books, an academic coach on every campus to support learners. It pays for the national certification that folks will earn,” explained Proctor. “And earners will get a $750 stipend when they earn their first microcrediental and their first national certification.”

These courses have already started at Niagara County Community College. The other schools will follow suit this fall.