WPA Co-Operates with the NYA - 1938

NYA boys and girls are advised about the wide range of adult education courses conducted by WPA teachers throughout the country. In some instances, WPA assigns teachers for special NYA courses related closely to the work the youth are doing.

In February 1938, in the State of Ohio, 2,989 NYA boys and girls were enrolled in spare-time classes taught by WPA teachers, NYA supervisors, settlement house personnel, public and private school teachers, churches, business colleges, libraries, and individual specialists in various commercial fields.

In that month, WPA courses were given in the following subjects: Arithmetic, Home Economics, Art, Home Furnishings, and Automobile Mechanics, Draperies, Bookkeeping, Home Management, Business Etiquette, Hygiene, Child Care, Music—Piano, Other Instruments, Civics and Current Events, Voice Theory, Commercial Art, Negro History, Comptometer Operation, Pottery, Conservation (Agricultural), Practical Nursing, Cooking, Reading, Dancing, Recreational Leadership, Domestic Service, Sewing, Dramatics, Shorthand, Employment Problems of Negro Sociology, Youth Spanish, First Aid, Spelling, French, Spoken English, Handicrafts, Swimming, Health, Typing, History, Vocational Orientation, Writing.

Many other States show proportionately large participation by NYA young people in WPA educational courses. In Kentucky, in 1937, approximately 2,000 received instruction in elementary school subjects, home nursing, first aid, childcare, home economics, masonry, metal work, woodwork, and handicrafts.

In Mississippi, 1,250 girls are studying homemaking and domestic service. In Illinois, NYA has emphasized pre-employment training classes, many of which are under WPA, throughout the State. These classes are open to all youth but are often organized around nuclei of NYA boys and girls. During 1937 several thousand young people attended them.

In January 1938, in Texas, 2,277 NYA youth were enrolled in part-time study courses, and 1,084 of these received instruction from WPA teachers. In Portland, Oregon, 1o NYA girls are working 70 hours, and taking an additional 50 hours a month of related study, in a WPA home demonstration unit, designed to train young women for domestic service and to aid in setting up standards in household employment.

Work and training combine to teach the girls how to prepare and serve food, upstairs and downstairs work, laundry, childcare, household management, household etiquette, and improvement in personal appearance. WPA and the vocational department of the public schools of Portland furnish teachers.

Each girl remains in the course until she is able to qualify for a position in domestic service. She is then referred to the Domestic Placement Department of the State Employment Office. In Greater Boston, NYA has developed an elaborate related training program.

A WPA staff member organized the classes, which are conducted by NYA supervisors and teachers from Boston University, Harvard University, and the Boston Opportunity School. Every NYA youth is expected to take two one-hour courses each week, one related to the work he is doing and the other elective.

In announcing this course, Mr. Edward L. Casey, NYA State Director, stated: "The objectives of the related training program are:

  1. To increase project efficiency by providing workers with training in their specific project tasks;
  2. To train NYA workers for permanent positions. In looking for positions many of the workers have been greatly handicapped by a lack of training. These courses are designed to increase your chances of getting a job;
  3. To give you an opportunity to explore and try the various occupations, so that NYA authorities will be in a better position to adjust the projects in accord with your interests and abilities."

In the spring of 1938 the courses taught were:

  • Job Survey Course in Trades for Men,
  • Job Survey Course in Trades for Women,
  • Job Survey Course in Clerical and Selling Positions for Men,
  • Job Survey Course in Clerical and Selling Positions for Women,
  • Office Practice,
  • Elementary Shorthand,
  • Advanced Shorthand,
  • Elementary Bookkeeping,
  • Advanced Bookkeeping,
  • Elementary Typing,
  • Advanced Typing,
  • Household Management,
  • Child Care,
  • Sewing,
  • Handy Facts for Men (training in general handiwork around the house, for superintendence of buildings, etc.),
  • Carpentry,
  • Landscaping,
  • Retailing [Note 1].

Ninety-four different sessions of these courses are offered each week at the Boston Opportunity School, the Young Men's Christian Union, and the Burroughs Newsboys' Foundation in Boston proper; at the Hecht House in Dorchester; the Central Square Center in East Boston; the Norfolk House Center in Roxbury; the East End Union in Cambridge; the Olivia James House and the Army Base in South Boston; the Jamaica Plains Neighborhood House in Jamaica Plains; and the Catholic Institute in Brighton.

All of them furnish space free of charge. NYA boys and girls, one from each class, compose a Related Training Council to make suggestions concerning the form and content of the courses and to evaluate the benefits they receive from their studies.

This council of youth publishes a semi-monthly bulletin which includes information on qualifications and opportunities in various employment fields.

General and Vocational Schools Help

In some localities, grade schools, high schools, and colleges have either broadened their extension courses to take in NYA workers or have established extra study groups for them. Two difficulties are frequently encountered in developing training work through these schools.

First, all over the country, schools are generally overcrowded, and teachers are carrying such heavy classroom loads that they do not wish to add to their duties. Second, it is difficult to get NYA boys and girls back inside the ordinary schoolhouse.

"Lots of the young people who have been out of school for a long time have a definite fixation against going inside a school door again," one NYA supervisor told us. "Out-of-school youth do not want to go back to school," another supervisor said. "The school is not the center of youth activities anymore."

Nevertheless, these obstacles have been overcome in a number of communities. NYA in New Mexico has succeeded in establishing free-time study courses in many public schools. In Clovis, a group of out-of-school girls go to the home economics department of the high school two afternoons a week for instruction in cooking and sewing.

A number of other public schools in New Mexico co-operate by including NYA youth in classes in simple English, arithmetic, and other elementary subjects. The Houghton College of Mining and the Ironwood Junior College in Michigan have initiated short courses in shop work for NYA boys who want training in addition to that which they receive in their work.

At Hornell, New York, Mr. Fred Hoey of the Alfred High School conducts a class in woodworking one evening a week for NYA boys who are working in a shop. This class is also open to other youth of the community.

The greatest development in the NYA spare-time education program has come through vocational schools, especially in States that have increased their vocational teaching personnel by the use of Federal Smith-Hughes and George-Deen funds. Wisconsin has an admirable vocational education pro- gram, with splendid buildings, equipment, and teaching personnel.

All over the State NYA youth spend some of their free time in the vocational schools' shops and classrooms. In Milwaukee, the NYA working schedules are arranged in half-day periods so that the boys and girls may use their other half-days in the vocational school.

Before the school year opened last August, each worker consulted with his project supervisor concerning the most profitable courses he might take. In the year 1937–38, NYA youth in Milwaukee have had a monthly average of 47 hours in project work and 43 hours in school.

In Minneapolis, in 1937, 450 NYA boys and girls enrolled in the Miller Vocational High School for one year of intensive training in thirteen different trades. The Minneapolis Board of Education co-operated with NYA in providing these courses.

In Arkansas, instructors in agriculture and teachers from the State Home Economics Department and the Trades and Industries Division conduct part-time classes for NYA boys and girls all over the State.

The Colorado NYA and the State Board for Vocational Education have a co-operative plan whereby the board furnishes supervisors for work projects and for correlated vocational classroom activities. Sixty percent of Colorado's out-of-school youth are now receiving this beneficial training from experts.

In Missouri last year 65 percent of the NYA youth took part-time educational work given by vocational agriculture and home economics teachers, WPA instructors, social agency youth leaders, local advisory committee members, and project supervisors. Free-time classes were held in 32 elementary and vocational subjects.

Training for Health

In every State we have visited, health information has been given to NYA boys or girls, sometimes by WPA teachers, often by Red Cross workers, and in many cases by members of State departments of health.

We have watched several groups of NYA boys and girls as they heard and discussed general problems of health, personal and home hygiene, sanitation, disease prevention, first aid, home care of the sick, and other questions affecting their own well-being.

Most of these young people listened with impressive attentiveness and some were eagerly alert in their questions. Many, we felt, were getting simple new health ideas which they would use for themselves and their families.

A State health worker was talking about venereal diseases to a NYA group we visited in Chicago. She stressed the occupational handicaps resulting from these diseases. She explained and demonstrated the Wassermann test and told these young people where they and their friends could take this test at no charge. In a number of other States, NYA is assisting the Public Health Service in its campaign to bring the problems of venereal diseases out into the open so that medical knowledge can be applied to them.

Leisure-Time Recreation

Youth who are out of school and jobless need all kinds of recreation facilities during their spare time, but few have many opportunities to find them. Settlement houses have opened their doors to groups of these boys and girls who want games, athletics, craft classes, and social activities.

In some instances, the YWCA and the YMCA have made special arrangements to extend the use of their commodious facilities to NYA youth. In almost every State, NYA organizes recreation programs, often open to all youth of the community, although they are especially designed for NYA boys and girls.

In Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire, hobby clubs, dancing, gym classes, an orchestra and glee club, and craft classes have been formed by NYA youth. New York State has many drama, music, and craft groups. We watched a large chorus of NYA Negro boys and girls practicing in Schenectady.

A talented boy who had received a scholarship at a music school was directing them. He had a similar group of Negro singers in Albany. The city of Waco, Texas, bought an old home and provided materials with which NYA boys renovated and landscaped it.

In this house, the Domestic Science Club, an organization of Waco women, supervises a leisure-time club for 250 NYA girls. In a large room, equipped with a piano, radio, and Victrola, the girls give dances. Arts and craft classes are popular.

Local people have collected a library for this house. A kitchen and dining room make home economics activities possible. In the large back yard, NYA boys built an open-air fireplace where the girls may be hostesses at barbecues and picnics.

Vocational Information

"What kind of a job do I want?" "What sort of work could I do best?" "What are some of the kinds of work that aren't so crowded that there might be room for me?" "What do you have to be able to do and to know to get and keep a job in a store"—or a bakery, or a textile factory, or any place else?

These are the questions many young people want answered. They want all varieties of job information. Where have they been able to get answers—answers which they can understand and use either in looking for work or in training themselves to be able to hold jobs?

NYA has tried to spread vocational information to many young people. In different States, this is done in different ways. In many States we saw simple instruction on "How to Apply for a Job" given. Boys and girls filled out application blanks and then discussed with their supervisors possible improvements in methods of filling them out. "Let's suppose you're looking for a job in my factory," we heard one supervisor tell a NYA boy.

Then he conducted a practice interview with the boy. "I feel that many of our young people are very shy and uncertain of themselves when it comes to talking to a possible 'boss,'" he explained to us later.

"They put their worst feet 'way forward. Often in spare time we have these little practice interviews. Several of the youngsters have told me that they have been helped when they went to talk to some real employer."

In Cleveland, a drama group of NYA youth put on a play called Want-Ad, in which they demonstrated the right and wrong ways of approaching jobs. Often NYA supervisors arrange for boys and girls to make trips through industrial plants so that they may get some understanding of the demands that specific trades make on workers.

In Mississippi, these excursions have been made a regular activity. Foremen in the plants explain to the NYA youth the amount and type of training necessary for different kinds of jobs. NYA has made use of the radio to disseminate vocational information on a large scale.

In these broadcasts, the major part of the time is usually devoted to describing the ranges and requirements of the various vocations open to youth. In Wisconsin, in 1937, two radio stations provided half-hour periods daily for eight months for broadcasts to youth on work opportunities and possibilities.

These were directed by Professor A. H. Edgerton of the University of Wisconsin and Dr. Jennie M. Turner of the State Department of Vocational Education. Several other Wisconsin stations broadcast NYA vocational-information programs weekly. Maine has instituted the "Vocational School of the Air."

In Michigan, a Detroit station co-operates with NYA in a series of job-information radio talks. Rhode Island has a new radio venture called the "Youth Radio Counselor." Every week a vocational guidance expert interviews boys and girls and gives them definite information on different occupations.

At the end of each of these broadcasts the counselor takes five or six minutes to answer questions from the letters he has received. Some States have concentrated upon the publishing of occupational studies for young people."

Possible job opportunities for youth in a State are explored, and research is done concerning the qualifications and training necessary or desirable in a number of fields. * For complete list, see Appendix VII.

These simply written studies give in detail the information that a young man or woman might like to know about various occupations. In Illinois, we visited the research project where the NYA occupational monographs are written.

Nine NYA youth were assisting WPA workers in gathering, compiling, and writing these monographs. They are sent to more than 3000 schools and libraries. About 5,000 briefs of each of these monographs are mimeographed for distribution to individual young people seeking vocational information.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, we went to a Youth Rally in the YMCA. Several hundred NYA young people and their friends were there. Music and other entertainment preceded a vocational talk by a representative of a local industry. He explained the types of jobs in his industry and the qualifications demanded for them.

In Kansas, every spring and fall, NYA conducts a series of career conferences in each county. "Our purpose is twofold," Miss Anne Laughlin, State NYA Director told us. "We want to interest service clubs, schools, and individuals in local youth problems, and we want to give our young people specific vocational information."

In each county, representatives from various businesses and occupations talk with the young people. Service clubs and schools help. Whenever possible, round-table talks are arranged so that the boys and girls feel freer to ask questions and discuss problems. These conferences are open to all the young people of the various communities.

In the fall of 1937, 63 career conferences were held in Kansas. They were attended by a total of 8,313 young people, of whom 6,016 came from NYA. In Missouri's Occupation Development Institutes (youth centers) civic leaders give their time to discuss job opportunities with young people.

In one month, 51 types of employment were explained at occupational information meetings attended by 6,871 young people. The Illinois NYA program for out-of-school youth concentrates on job-information classes. Hundreds are held every year, and all youth are welcome to attend.

Last year, more than 70,000 young people heard talks and entered discussions concerning many vocations. WPA educational personnel, NYA supervisors, public school teachers, service clubs, and a large number of individuals co-operated to make these classes possible.

NYA occupational briefs were distributed. Radio stations broadcast news about this vocational activity. Churches, schools, and settlement houses all joined in to promote these courses and to provide the rooms in which they were held.

The examples we have given show the diversification of the related training program. In a few States, every NYA boy and girl is taking some spare-time related training work. It may be brush-up study on typing or shorthand.

It may be participation in WPA adult education classes or attendance at vocational schools. Or it may be in especially organized NYA practice or study groups, many of which are open to all the youth of the community.

"We tell our boys and girls," said the Youth Director of a State which reports a 100 percent participation in related training activities, "that we expect them to attend some classes or practice or discussion groups which can add to the training they receive in their project work.

We try to keep our part of this agreement by making interesting, lively, meaningful courses available to them. They don't want anything that smacks of the old-fashioned schoolroom where a superior teacher ruled over inferior children.

It's difficult at first to get some of them sold on the idea of related training. We've found, however, that once they start and find out that these courses are built around such realities of their lives as their work and their health, only the exceptional boy or girl fails to welcome them."

We visited several States where 60 to 70 per cent. of the NYA youth were enrolled in free-time study groups. There are no statistics as to the number of these young people throughout the country who make use of their spare time in some educational way opened to them through their NYA work.

We feel that it would be safe to estimate that at least 50 per cent. of the 155,000 NYA youth on the work program in the spring of 1938 were preparing themselves for better employment possibilities through study on their own time.

Note 1: Given through the co-operation of the Prince School of Store Service.

Betty and Ernest K. Lindley, "WPA Co-Operates." in A New Deal for Youth: The Story of the National Youth Administration, New York: The Viking Press, 1938, pp. 73-85.

Return to Top of Page

WPA / Works Progress Administration
GG Archives

Brochures, Booklets, & Pamphlets


Farmers on Relief and Rehabilitation - WPA - 1937

Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration - 1938

Rural Families on Relief - Research Monograph XVII - 1938

Rural Youth: Their Situation and Prospects - Research Monograph XV - 1938

Rural Youth - Their Situation and Prospects - Conclusions - 1938

New Deal for Youth - The National Youth Administration (NYA) - 1938

1935-05 The Drought and Current Farm Imports

1936-10-15 Report on Progress of The Works Program

Final Report on the WPA Program 1935-43

Handbook of Proceedures - 1937

Report on Progress of WPA Program - 1942

Other Information

WPA Reference Section