WISCONSIN — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Tuesday announced a new free online program that will help train 10,000 people as certified direct care professionals (CDCPs).

It’s a step toward combating the state’s shortage of caregivers.

“There is a shortage of caregivers not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide,” said Curtis Cunningham, an assistant administrator with the DHS division of Medicaid services. “The only way to find more is to promote this fulfilling career by providing standardized training and certification that helps people learn, grow and advance, and our new CDCP program does just that.”

The program — developed with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay — is self-paced. It includes direct-care topics ranging from safety to ethics to communication.

DHS said most candidates should be able to complete the program in about 30 hours. Then, they must pass an online exam to earn their certification.

The state health organization used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help launch the program on WisCaregiverCDCP.com. It expands upon the previously established WisCaregiver Careers certified nurse aid (CNA) program. About 9,000 people signed up for that program.

CDCPs offer care to older adults and people with disabilities depending on individual needs. They help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, exercising and more. In addition, they can also provide supportive home care by providing supervision and monitoring, running errands, doing yardwork and more.

The new training from DHS allows those wanting to become a CDCP to be prepared for these situations. DHS said those who go through the program will also be able to easily connect for free with employers through the new expanded workforce platform, WisCaregiver Connections.

The site hosts job openings and automatically matches with job-seekers.

“We are dedicated to supporting our most vulnerable Wisconsinites in living their best lives. Through our CDCP initiative, we will grow and strengthen skilled professionals in our workforce who can provide quality care to our older adults and people with disabilities,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge.

DHS said caregivers who complete the program and get a job with an eligible home and community-based services employer will also get an added incentive: a $250 hiring bonus. An additional $250 will be given for those who work for at least six months.

Interested CDCP candidates can visit WisCaregiverCDCP.com for more information.