Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969

Author: Richard M. Nixon  | Date: August 12, 1969

Special Message to the Congress on Manpower Training.
August 12, 1969

To the Congress of the United States:

A job is one rung on the ladder of a lifelong career of work.

That is why we must look at manpower training with new eyes: as a continuing process to help people to get started in a job and to get ahead in a career.

"Manpower training" is one of those phrases with a fine ring and an imprecise meaning. Before a fresh approach can be taken, a clear definition is needed.

Manpower training means: ( 1 ) making it possible for those who are unemployed or on the fringes of the labor force to become permanent, full-time workers; (2) giving those who are now employed at low income the training and the opportunity they need to become more productive and more successful; (3) discovering the potential in those people who are now considered unemployable, removing many of the barriers now blocking their way.

Manpower training, in order to work on all rungs of the ladder, requires the efficient allocation by private enterprise and government of these human resources. We must develop skills in a place, in a quantity, and in a way to ensure that they are used effectively and constantly improved.

Today, government spends approximately 3 billion dollars in a wide variety of manpower programs, with half directly devoted to job training; private enterprise spends much more on job training alone. The investment by private industry-given impetus by the profit motive as well as a sense of social responsibility—is the fundamental means of developing the nation’s labor force. But the government’s investment has failed to achieve its potential for many reasons, including duplication of effort, inflexible funding arrangements and an endless ribbon of red tape. For example:

—A jobless man goes to the local skill training center to seek help. He has the aptitudes for training in blue collar mechanical work, but no suitable training opportunities are available. At the same time, vacancies exist in a white collar New Careers project and in the Neighborhood Youth Corps. But the resources of these programs cannot be turned over to the training program that has the most local demand.

—A 17-year old boy wants to take job training. The only manpower program available to him is the Job Corps, but its nearest camp is hundreds of miles away. With no other choice, he leaves home; within 30 days he has become homesick or feels his family needs him; he drops out of the Corps and has suffered "failure" which reinforces his self-image of defeat.

—A big-city Mayor takes the lead in trying to put together a cohesive manpower program for the entire labor market area—tying together jobless workers in the inner city with job openings outside the "beltway." He finds it difficult to assemble a coherent picture of what’s going on. Manpower programs funded by different agencies follow different reporting rules, so that the statistics cannot be added up. Moreover, there is no single agency which maintains an inventory of all currently operatingmanpower programs. He knows that help is available but where does he turn?

—An unemployed high school drop-out in a small town wants to learn a trade in the electronics field. His local employment office tells him that there is not enough demand in his town for qualified technicians to warrant setting up a special training class in a local public school. He is also told that "administrative procedures" do not lend themselves to the use of a local private technical institute which offers the very course he wants. This youngster walks the streets and wonders what happened to all those promises of "equal opportunity."

This confused state of affairs in the development of human resources can no longer be tolerated. Government exists to serve the needs of people, not the other way around. The idea of creating a set of "programs," and then expecting people to fit themselves into those programs, is contrary to the American spirit; we must redirect our efforts to tailor government aid to individual need.

This government has a major responsibility to make certain that the means to learn a job skill and improve that skill are available to those who need it.

Manpower training is central to our commitment to aid the disadvantaged and to help people off welfare rolls and onto payrolls. Intelligently organized, it will save tax dollars now spent on welfare, increase revenues by widening the base of the taxpaying public, and—most important-lift human beings into lives of greater dignity.

I propose a comprehensive new Manpower Training Act that would pull together much of the array of Federal training services and make it possible for State and local government to respond to the needs of the individual trainee.

The Nation must have a Manpower System that will enable each individual to take part in a sequence of activities-tailored to his unique needs—to prepare for and secure a good job. The various services people need are afforded in laws already on the books. The need today is to knit together all the appropriate services in one readily available system. By taking this step we can better help the disadvantaged gain control and direction of their own lives.

A first step was taken in this direction in March when I announced the reorganization of the Manpower Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. This reorganization consolidated the agencies that had fragmented responsibility for carrying out most of the Nation’s manpower training program. We must now complete the job by streamlining the statutory framework for our manpower training efforts.

In specific terms, the Act which I propose would:

1. Consolidate major manpower development programs administered by the Department of Labor—namely, the Manpower Development and Training Act and Title I-A (Job Corps) and I-B (Community Work and Training Program) of the Economic Opportunity Act. These programs, operated in conjunction with strengthened State manpower agencies, will provide training activities in a cohesive manpower services system. The Office of Economic Opportunity, without major manpower operational responsibilities, will continue its role in research workand program development working with the Department of Labor in pioneering new manpower training approaches.

2. Provide flexible funding of manpower training services so that they can be sensitive to and focused on local needs; this will ensure the most efficient use of available resources.

3. Decentralize administration of manpower services to States and metropolitan areas, as Governors and Mayors evidence interest, build managerial capacity, and demonstrate effective performance. This process will take place in three stages. First, a State will administer 25 per cent of the funds apportioned to it when it develops a comprehensive manpower planning capability; second, it will exercise discretion over 66 2/3 per cent when it establishes a comprehensive Manpower Training Agency to administer the unified programs; and, third, it will administer 100 per cent when the State meets objective standards of exemplary performance in planning and carrying out its manpower service system.

The proposed Act will assure that equitable distribution of the manpower training dollars is made to the large metropolitan areas and to rural districts, working through a State grant system.

By placing greater reliance on State and local elected officials, the day-to-day planning and administration of manpower programs will become more responsive to individual job training needs. A dozen States have already taken steps to reshape administrative agencies and to unify manpower and related programs.

To qualify for full participation under the proposed Act, each State and the major cities in a State would unify its manpower administration under State and local prime sponsors. These agencies would administer the programs funded by the Federal Government; be responsible for other State and local activities to help people secure employment; help employers find manpower; and work in close liaison with State and local vocational education, vocational rehabilitation and welfare programs, for which leadership will be provided at the national level by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

In addition, the State and local prime sponsors would establish advisory bodies, including employees, employers and representatives of the local populations to be served, to assist in developing local policy. In this manner, the units of government would be able to benefit continually from the experience and counsel of the private sector.

4. Provide more equitable allowances for trainees, simplifying the present schedule to provide an incentive for a trainee to choose the training best suited to his own future, and not the training that "pays" most.

As an incentive to move from welfare rolls to payrolls, the allowance to welfare recipients who go into training would be increased to $30 per month above their present welfare payments. These increased training allowances carefully dovetail into the work incentives outlined in my message to the Congress regarding the transformation of the welfare system. As the welfare recipient moves up the ladder from training to work, the first $60 per month of earnings would result in no deductions from Federally-financed payments.

5. Create a career development plan for trainees, tailored to suit their individualcapabilities and ambitions.

Eligible applicants—in general, those over 16 who need training—would be provided a combination of services that would help them to train, to find work, and to move on up the ladder. These services will include counseling, basic vocational education, medical care, work experience, institutional and on-the-job training, and job referral. Manpower services will also be available for those who are presently employed but whose skill deficiencies hold them in low-income, dead-end jobs.

6. Establish a National Computerized Job Bank to match job seekers with job vacancies. It would operate in each State, with regional and national activities undertaken by the Secretary of Labor, who would also set technical standards.

The computers of the Job Bank would be programmed with constantly changing data on available jobs. A job seeker would tell an employment counselor his training or employment background, his skills and career plans, which could be matched with a variety of available job options. This would expand the potential worker’s freedom of choice and help him make best use of his particular talents.

7. Authorize the use of the comprehensive manpower training system as an economic stabilizer. If rising unemployment were ever to suggest the possibility of a serious economic downturn, a countercyclical automatic "trigger" would be provided. Appropriations for manpower services would be increased by 10 percent if the national unemployment rate equals or exceeds 4.5 percent for three consecutive months. People without the prospect of immediate employment could use this period to enhance their skills—and the productive capacity of the nation.

I proposed a similar measure in my message to the Congress on expansion of the unemployment insurance system.

The proposed comprehensive Manpower Training Act is a good example of a new direction in making Federalism work. Working together, we can bring order and efficiency to a tangle of Federal programs.

We can answer a national need by decentralizing power, setting national standards, and assigning administrative responsibility to the States and localities in touch with community needs.

We can relate substantial Federal-State manpower efforts to other efforts in welfare reform, tax sharing and economic opportunity, marshaling the resources of the departments and agencies involved to accomplish a broad mission.

We can meet individual human needs without encroaching on personal freedom, which is perhaps the most exciting challenge to government today.

With these proposals, which I strongly urge the Congress to enact, we can enhance America’s human resources. By opening up the opportunity for manpower training on a large scale, we build a person’s will to work; in so doing, we build a bridge to human dignity.

The White House

August 12, 1969

NOTE: The White House Press Office also released the text of a news briefing on the President’s message, held in San Clemente, Calif., by George P. Shultz, Secretary of Labor, Arnold R. Weber, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Manpower, and Ronald L. Ziegler, White House Press Secretary.

The message was released at San Clemente, Calif.


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Chicago: Richard M. Nixon, "329 Special Message to the Congress on Manpower Training.," Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049 660–662. Original Sources, accessed November 30, 2023,

MLA: Nixon, Richard M. "329 Special Message to the Congress on Manpower Training." Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049, pp. 660–662. Original Sources. 30 Nov. 2023.

Harvard: Nixon, RM, '329 Special Message to the Congress on Manpower Training.' in Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049, pp.660–662. Original Sources, retrieved 30 November 2023, from