Students at the centre of VTDI’s psychosocial program

By Oneika Young

January 5, 2023

Current and past students from the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI) were invited to a focus group session on psychosocial support hosted by the Advance Program. This session is a part of a three-part consultation session with staff, faculty, and students from the institution. The Advance Program aims to help VTDI to create a psychosocial support program that caters to students’ needs. 

USAID’s Youth in Development Policy states: Increasing youth participation in the development of policies, programs and services should inevitably lead to better results. Advance values youth participation and strives to include youth in the psychosocial support program along with other youth-centered activities.   

The need for psychosocial support came about when VTDI began to face significant student retention challenges among a few of their programs. “Students including those who got financial support dropped out, and this we believe points to the need for additional non-financial support for students,” said Andreen Bowes, recruitment, scholarship and labor bridging specialist with Advance Jamaica. Bowes continued, “So we are working with VTDI to determine how the school community can provide support.” 

Dr. Jillian Samms-Hudson, licensed associate school psychologist, has been the lead consultant in conducting research to design a program most fitting to the needs of the students and staff at the VTDI. When asked about the approach being taken, Dr. Samms-Hudson shared, “In order to co-design a psychosocial programme, it is important to view the situation through the eyes of those who are engaged at the institution. This makes the eventual design a custom one for VTDI based on their needs.”  

Participants engaged in a three-hour session to share their thoughts on what psychosocial support means, who needs it, how it looks and how institutions can move forward in implementing a program to address the issues students face.  

Student, Candicia McKenzie, shares her thoughts on the psychosocial support being offered at the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI).

“I absolutely loved the session. It was fun, very interactive as well as informative,” says current student Candicia McKenzie. She added, “The session allowed me to voice all my opinions on certain matters as well as learn how to think about solutions from other perspectives. I would love to see all the ideas we gave come to fruition, to help current and future students with whatever struggles they may have.”  

The session provided feedback on the current state of VTDI student support services from registration to program completion.  

 “The aim of the sessions was to [also] gain an idea of the stressors faced by students at various levels and the types of support that would be needed to alleviate these stressors,” Samms-Hudson states. She added, “When I say ‘levels’, I am referring to the fact that some stressors will affect all students, other stressors will affect some students, and yet others will affect few students. Different types of support are needed at each level. Some areas of support are preventative or focused on early intervention. Others are crisis or intensive intervention.”  

 The Advance Program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by FHI 360.  



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