of the


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Delivered on March 19th, 1942 by Charles W. Taussig, the Chairman of the NAC.




            The NYA was created to meet an emergency.  Its creation marked a new departure by our Federal Government – a venture into the field of youth work.


            “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  Control of youth is the cornerstone of dictatorship. 


In 1935 the handwriting concerning fascism was on the wall.  And following Germany and Japan into the Federal control of a youth organization was a bold step.  Many feared the consequences of it.  FDR took heat for it.  But there was no alternative, discontent was rising in their ranks.  Subversive groups and agents of un-American ideologies, taking advantage of the situation, were active in their midst. 


But he provided two safeguards.  One was that the NYA was not an organization of youths, it provided services to youth.  When Hitler did his youth groups, he got rid of the other private youth groups.  Boy scouts and girl scouts, YMCA’s and YWCAs, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish Church groups go on just as before, strengthened, if anything by the NYA. 


He did not limit it to public institutions.  So he helped free expression so vital to a democracy.  He saw a great danger in the centralization of all higher education. 


All such organizations must be service organizations, not overall organizations or competing or supplanting ones. 

The second safe guard was the inclusion of advisory committees at the local, state and federal levels.  There are now 1168 active state and local advisory committees with a membership of 12,012.  Their composition follows all those concerned with youth.  This means a cross section of community interests.  In no other governmental setup is there anything comparable. 

The National Advisory Committee is the same thing at a federal level.  They are 36 folks appointed by the president who over see the NYA.


They assist in the operation of NYA programs.  They direct attention at specific problems through studies and surveys.  And carry out analysis of ways in which young people feel they can best contribute to the war effort. 

They are community oriented.  They help the locals talk to the feds.  They guarantee that the local voice is heard. 





:::::::::::Three emergencies and the NYA:::::::::::::::::


            The first was the depression, the second the war and the third will be post-war reconstruction and readjustment.

            The history of the NYA will follow.  But as war is the thing now, they’ll start with the current contributions to the war effort.


::::::::Emergency Number Two – Defense and Offense Period  “The War’s the Thing”


In NYA history the Spring of 1940 was the dividing line between emergency one and emergency two.  In the early months of 1940 the NYA officials started investigating how it could contribute to a potential war effort. 

In 1940, the NYA spent 67,304,000 dollars on employing 264,460 young folk and $27,188,000 helping an average of 438,015 students.  The dominant principle in deciding on projects was if (1) It was useful and (2) if it provided training-on-the-job.

The pre-war projects were local community based ones.  They had to start thinking about war construction and production. 

By fall of 1941 they could say that they had developed a defense training program in anticipation of the war.  As a result there were 800 shops in which young people received training in skills needed acutely by defense industries.  And 35,000 to 45,000 each month were leaving for private employment. 

One example is the Miami Work Experiences Center near Dayton.  The boys live at the Center but receive their work experience at the Air Corps shops.   400 are receiving training there. 

They are assigned specific work under the supervision of trained army civlilian mechanics.  They work in the machine, sheet metal and welding shops, at engine, instrument and plane repair, in radio, ignition and electricity.  They also participate in flight tests.  They learn to do by doing but also get courses in blue print reading, shop mathematics and shop practice.   In six months they take civil service exams and are employed by the air-corps as mechanic-learners.  Some join the military and others production lines. 

When they learn to do something they get a lot of pride in themselves and the country that has taught them. 

The NYA has a Resident Work Center operated by the NYA on the property of the U.S. Ordinance plant.  They also receive training.

Youth there work five eight hour days a week.   Four hours of which each day are spent in actual work experience.  They also get education:  three hours a day in trade technology related to what they are doing.  And one hour a week in each of the following: safety, social education, occupational counseling, personal counseling, library and health. 

They learn on machines discarded by the Navy.

96 project youth at South Charleston live in a dormitory they built themselves.  They eat there. 

There are 429 of these Centers now in operation.  They are all, as rapidly as possible, being converted to war interests.  All will be transformed by mid April.  Here they go from awkward, self-conscious, completely unskilled youth (a drag on the war effort) to skilled confident young people. 

There are over 2,000 non-residential workshops doing work related to the war effort also run by the NYA.  They run 55,000 individual work stations utilized on a three shift basis.  They can provide the training of more than 150,000 youth in basic skills needed in industry in three months.  So 600,000 a year are doable. 


::::::::::::::::Health and Rehabilitation Centers:::::::::::::::::


There are now eight of these.  These centers are referred selectees who have been rejected because of remediable physical defects.  About 450 young men passed through just one rehab center in six months.  Two out of every five young men are being rejected because of physical defects (not all remedial). 

They are getting over their physical problems and getting training  so they can be useful to themselves and the nation. 


::::::::::::::The War’s Demand for Trained Workers:::::::::::::::::::::::

Youth contribute 1.6 million new persons each year to the labor force.  Only a very few have experience or skills.   2/5ths of the worker employed in NYA projects has never had a job before.  Industry is overtaxed and cannot train them.  The training opportunities in public schools are inappropriate.


::::::::::::Migration of Youth Workers:::::::::::::::::::

            The youth must be brought to where they are needed.  Many young people are migrating to where they think there is work.  They often just add to the unemployed groups. They will train them and deliver them to industry efficiently.


::::::::::::What NYA is Doing to Meet these Needs:::::::::::::::::::::


            They train them and then tell them where the work is.  Employers often come to get them.  Both industry and youth have been excited about directed migration.  This allows them to take care of local needs with a central organization.


:::::::::::::::::Spending up in the NYA Defense Programs::::::::::::::::::

In 1940 when expansion was begun in defense training, 50,000 out-of-school youth were employed.  By May of 1941 is has tripled. 


They got up to 147,000 youth workers at their 55,334 work stations.  But now budgets are going down.  This is sad as millions have been spent already on the equipment and more workers are needed.  It’s a bad move. 

Previosly, 40 hours a week and 70 per month was the maximum that out-of-school non-resident participants could work.  Now it is 80 minimum and 169 hours maximum per month.  Including not more than 60 hours of formal classroom instruction.  This must be raised.  


:::::::::::Youth Receive Training While Producing Articles for the Armed Forces::::::::::::::


Of the hand tools produced or repaired by NYA in 1941, 35,000 went for army use, as did over 96,000 machine pars and about 13,000 gun parts.  They have repaired about 55 naval vessels.  At Quoddy, Maine, they filled orders for 4,000 conduit glands and much more. 

            The small size of these orders would make them considered “nuisance orders” by industry.  In some cases, too much was being spent on overhead like supervision.  Sometimes that was the fault of the faculty, not the program itself.  But when it was a bad project it was totally discontinued.  

            Almost every one of the 3,037 counties in the USA has some NYA activity.  So weak spots are to be expected.  But they are on them quickly.  They have pioneered a lot of programs.  It would be a shame to lose the benefits of the lessons learned now.


:::::::::::The Contribution of NYA to Essential Civilian Activities::::::::::::::


Food transportation, communications, farming, clerical work, Hospital work.  All going into defense has caused shortages in some areas.  They are there training replacements.


            All projects, however, not intimately related to the war effort are to be discontinued immediately as of March 1942, by order of Aubrey Williams. 


:::::::::::::NYA youth Enter Private Employment::::::::::::::::::::


During the past year more than 419,000 youth left their projects for private employment.  It would be more but many have joined the armed forces.  Still, in November, 1941 there were 380,000 youth awaiting assignment to NYA projects; this means.  With the demand high for defense industry workers with skills, the need for training youth is high. 


:::::The NYA Program Penetrates the Rural as Well as the Industrial Areas:::::::::::::


   War orders are concentrated in some areas.  So workers in the rural areas are not absorbed into the work force yet.   The NYA is national.  Only six percent of the counties in the country have no youth on the Out-Of-School program.  Their distribution approximates the distribution of youth. 


:::::The NYA Health Programs::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Heath and P.E. are vital to the nation, especially now.  Of 258,000 they examined, corrective measures were recommended or additional diagnostic procedures were recommended for 8 out of every ten youth. 

            Heading the list was that for dental care.  Three out of every five youths have dental problems.  Four of five according to participating dentists.  Eye refractions and tonsillectomies each got 18 percent recommendations. 

            The rejection rate is now higher than for WW I.  Changed standards account for some of this.  But it is apparent that the Depression has taken a toll on health. 

            Their health ed, treatment and rehab centers will reduce the amount rejected for service due to health reasons. 

But budget constraints have caused the health efforts to be discontinued.


::::: Youth and Unemployment Today::::::::::::::::::::::::


Has the war made unemployment and thus the NYA obsolete.  The anser is that the defense training is vital and in areas without defense plants the unemployment problem is still acute.  24 states received only 7.3 % of the defense contracts, but they have 21.8 % of the youth.  And the coverage where states have war contracts isn’t evenly distributed over the whole state.  Many areas will not get war contracts. 

The army only gets them after the age of 20.  The WPA found 700,000 unemployed youth below the age of 20.  And the Armed Forces won’t have a great effect on young women being unemployed. 

Also many defense industries won’t hire folks below the age of 20.  All materials are being put into war industries so those that make consumer durable goods are losing tons of work. 

Training and directed migration are needed.


:::::::::::::The Student Work Program:::::::::::::::::::::::

The rising cost of living has pressured more youth to leave school.  There is pressure to enlist of join a war plant. 

It is not in the best interest of the war effort, however, to have a sudden exodus from colleges.  We will need educated folks tomorrow.  And school kids are leaving too, but are barred from defense work.  The cut of the NYA budget from 23 million to 17 has meant that they have had to halve the number of school aid recipients.  20,000 students will be forced to drop out of college.  Schools and equal opportunity from NYA create morale. 


:::::::::::::Youth Morale::::::::::::::

If youth are trained and kept in good physical health, the morale in the country will be improved.  To ignore their potential contributions is dangerous. 






Upon signing the executive order for the NYA, FDR said, “I have determined that we shall do something for the nation’s unemployed youth because we can ill afford to lose the skill and energyof these young men and women.”  Shortly after this Order (Number 7086), a second order (7164) was issued broadening the scope of the newly created body to include employment of needy students on school work projects.


The administrative authority was in the president.  The relief acts of 1936 and 37 continued making appropriations directly to him.  In the Relief act of 1938 it was made to the Works Progress Administration.  In 1939 the NYA was transferred from the WPA to the Federal Security Agency.  Thereafter funds have come directly from Congress. 


“A youth must not be encouraged to think that he is sinned against just because he is a youth.  Nor must he be encouraged or even allowed to consider himself as one apart, seeing , even demanding, special consideration for himself.  The family is the unit of society, and youth is part of the family.” (pgs 39-40)


But youth are innocent bystanders to the depression causes and isn’t emotionally mature enough to handle it. Had a demagogue arisen her he would have foud a field sown with the seeds of disappointment, discontent, and despair. 


In the spring of 1935 nearly five million youth were out of school and unemployed.  Of these nearly three million were on relief, and of these about 625,000 had never held a job of any kind.  Hundreds of thousands became transients.  In January, 1933, at least a million were in this category and many were youth. 

            Less than ˝ the youth that entered high school between 1929 and 1932 remained to graduate.  2.5 million withdrew and about a million for financial reasons.  College enrollment between 1932 and 1934 decreased by 10 percent. 

            Farms weren’t the main employers and apprenticeships had broken down, so experience was a prerequisite for employment. 

The ratio of adults was higher than ever too. 

With no hope, their moral suffered with the waves of fear, frustration and bitter resentment that were sweeping the country. 


:::::::::::::The Problem Recognized – The Establishment of the CCC:::::::::::::::::::::::::


In March, 1933, the first month of the new administration the CCC was created to take 300,000 young men off the streets to work in camps and forests and national parks to conserve the national resources.


::::::::::::The CCC Unable to Cope with Many Youth Problems:::::::::::::::


This didn’t help those that wanted to continue their education or couldn’t leave their homes.  Before being appointed its head, Aubrey Williams was the Deputy WPA Administrator.  The Office of Education wanted the program as an educational program designed to keep kids in school.  Giving it to the WPA made clear it was a relief / work program.  They thought work would do more to maintain morale than school.  Plus, work experience was needed. 


The Student work Program and the Work programs were the major things from the beginning.  Also, the establishment of job training, counseling, and placement services for youth and the development of constructive leisure – time activities.


The Out – Of – School Work Program

::::::::::::::::Development of a Work Program to meet Depression Needs::::::::::::::::


“…it was a firmly established American principle that assistance to those in need of employment should be given in the form of useful work for wages.” (pg 47).

The immediate needs of the youth of 1935 was subsistence and to know that there was a place for them in their communities. 

The projects were determined by the needs of the local communities and co-sponsors.


::::::::::Resident Work Centers::::::::::::

After a year of experimentation, a national resident work center was established to help those in sparsely settled areas.  Appropriate deductions were made from the wages of resident project workers to cover the cost of their subsistence and shelter. 

            In addition to offering an organized work program and educational opportunities, the resident center has made health counseling and examinations available.  They also organized recreation. 

            They try to give the youth experience with several jobs so that an aptitude can be discovered.  In 1940, there were over 450 of these centers with a total enrollment of over 31,000 young people. 

            The average stay was from three to six months.  Useful trades were taught at all of them.  They all had machine shops.  Class and hands – on training went hand in hand.


::::::::::::Selection and Assignment of Youth on Out of School Projects:::::::::::::::


Originally from relief families, they had to register with employment offices and look for work.


:::::::::::Principles of Training:::::::::::::::::::::::;


            Experience appropriate to their interests and aptitudes were stressed. 


So they are interviewed before assignment.  Their progress was evaluated a lot.  The reports on the youth included his general progress, habits of work, his attitude towards work and fellow workers and efforts to obtain private employment. 


Before the warthey got to try lots of jobs.  Now machine operators are needed for the war effort. 


Local public school officials provided instruction in subjects related to the work they were doing. 

The school did not see the NYA as a competitor, but a complementer.  But some didn’t understand that they were just providing the post-high school transition education.

They also provided job placement advisors which were eventually removed from the NYA and made permanent parts of the local employment offices. 



Job counseling is less important during the war because machinists are all needed.  But after the war guidance counselors will be more important than ever.

The NYA experience in this arena shouldn’t be wasted.


:::::::Employment, types of Work and Physical Accomplishment of the Programs::::::::::


In its first five years, the NYA out-of-school Work Program gave work and wages to over a million different youth.   All programs together (including the CCC and WPA programs) only reached a little over 600,000 of the four million seeking work in the latter part of 1937.


Manufacturing, construction and clerical work (45,500 girls and 12,500 boys) were set up.  They spent their wages in the community, but also gained faith in the democratic way of life.  They also helped to meet the needs of the communities in the Depression. 


Accomplishments through June, 1940:


“NYA youth constructed or repaired nearly 2 million articles of furniture and manufactured 1,076,398 household articles including rugs and bedding.  They turned out 357,983 hand tools and items of mechanical equipment.

            Over 5 thousand tons of food were produced and canned.  Clothing made or renovated totaled over 6 ˝ million articles, not counting repair of 56,706 pairs of shoes.  Millions of items for hospital use, such as slings and bandages, were produced.

            Nearly 1,500 miles of road and street were laid out, and other thousands improved and landscaped.  More than 57,000 acres were added to parks in local communities. 

Soil erosion control was extended over 274,476 acres by NYA youth, over 12 ˝ million trees were planted, and fields, forests, and streams in many areas were restocked with wild life. 

During these years over 6,000 public buildings were constructed and three ties that many were repaired.  The most important types of buildings were schools and libraries (1,429), social and community buildings, hospitals, clinics, and other medical buildings.

Many airport hangars and landing fields were constructed during this period, and almost 2,000 bridges were built.  Hundreds of miles of sewer and water lines, and telephone and electric lines brought modern conveniences to homes in outlying regions.  Almost 4,000 recreational structures, such as bandstands, bleachers, and outdoor theaters, as well as golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and athletic fields gave new recreational and health opportunities to millions of Americans.” (pgs. 61 – 62).


:::::::::::::The Student Work Program::::::::::::::::::


Democracy cannot function without an enlightened citizenship.  Our economy requires the services of large numbers of professional workers and technicians. 


The depression resulted in an enormous increase in the number of youth registering at high school.  Less than half starting High School were able to finish.  850,000 dropped out each year due to financial problems.  


The college program private and denominational colleges and universities as well as public ones. 


::::::::::::::Allocation of Funds::::::::::::::::::::::::;


            Since the funds were given directly to the student and since the youth are free to select their own school, it is evident that it was a Federal benefit to students.  Yet because the work was a benefit to the school they were happy.


::::Selection of Students for Employment on In-School Work Projects::::::::::


Most of the students listing their families incomes included some money they had made too.  Four of every five NYA students come from families of 4 or more.  Half the whites made under $650 and half the Negroes less than $355.  Since there were more applicants than spots, the scholastic records of the applicants were carefully scrutinized.  They were better than average students.


::::::::::::Planning Student Work Projects::::::::::::

The students had to work and when possible it was related to their fields of interest.  40% were involved in some departmental occupation as of June, 1940. 


:::::::Amount and Distribution of Funds and Employment:::::::::::::::

Up to Summer of 1940, 2,062,000 different youth in schools and colleges (3/4 schools) participated.   30,000 high schools and 1700 colleges and universities participated.  All totaled the five years cost $119,156,631 or $65 per year per student. 


:::::::::::School and College Work Councils:::::::::::::::::

These were state wide advisory bodies.  They helped stimulate more experimentation in work – experience in schools and did evaluation.


::::::::::Participation of Minority Groups in the Student Work Program::::::::

They have participated in proportion to their existence in society.  In 1939 – 40 there were 64,083 Negroes and 4,313 youth of other races in the Student Work Program.


Negroes were 12.2 percent of the youth in the Student Work Program, but ony 5.6 percent on the College and Graduate Work Programs (he says due to poverty).  Other races constituted 0.7 percent of both. 

Special funds are made for Negroes.  $468,000 was made to Negro Colleges and $105,000 to enable Negro students in states which have limited Negro university facilities to pursue their studies in other states.  




The NYA eased the tensions of the period and it gave a strikig demonstration of what could be done.  The NYA has always only given relief for useful work.

Many say the NYAs greatest achievement was the pioneering work it has done in bridging that gap between school and the first job by providing experience, counseling and training. 

Between 1935 and June of 1940 1,429 new educational buildings or additions were constructed by NYA youth and 12,854 were modernized.  These included many buildings for vocational instruction.

Another great feature was that they got classes built around the area of work they chose. 

Decentralization has been a keynote of NYA organizations.  In 1940 co-sponsors payed for 18 percent of the total cost of the out-of-school program.





The NYA apparatus is there.  It should be preserved.  In personnel, these are not simply executives chosen to fit into a spot already prepared for them, like a cog in a machine.  They have to create, not simply carry on; to initiate, not simply to follow.  They have to be contact people. 


1.  Aid in the efficient demobilization and reabsorbtion of those in the armed services. 


These folks will only have training in military matters.


Some areas were hard to reintegrate after W W I some were easier.  A national organization is needed.  England already has such a system working for demobilization.


2. The utilization and probable expansion of the present Out-Of-School Works Projects Program as a part of a general public works plan:


            They are suited to do it because they provide training.  Also, they are successful as the millions donated by co-sponsors attests.


3. Aid in extending equal educational opportunity and reducing the size of the labor force.


4. Provision of work experience for new entrants into the labor market.


The problem of transitioning people from school to work will always be there.



He hopes, more than anything, that this paper has expressed the NYA values. 


They have trained men for defense plants and given them the technical training to be a part of a mechanical war.   They have also provided goods for the military.  The NYA is also contributing to the civilian services as men go off to sea and others do military manufacturing.  They are giving health checks.  After being in the NYA their rejection rate goes down. 

They train people to be citizens in a democracy and lift morale. 

They weren’t just given a negative task to keep folks off the streets.  In June 1936, the President observed that “no greater obligation faces the government than to justify the faith of its young people in the fundamental rightness of our democratic institutions, and to preserve their strength, loyalty and idealism against the time when them must assume the responsibilities of citizenship.”  Today, when our democracy is on trial, the faith given to the 2 ˝ million youth who have been aided by the NYA is proving an invaluable asset in the fight against the Axis nations. 

They have helped with the directed migration of young workers to work. 

The unemployment problem will continue.   Qualified workers did important projects under the NYA.

Finally, the value of the Advisory Committee Program (unique in government) should be acknowledged. 

The values will be more necessary than ever after the war.