Douglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrie.

The evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors online

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The administration of the vocational work is in the hands of the
vocational branch of the commission, directed by T. B. Kidner. The
local work in the Province of Alberta is in the hands of Dr. James
C. Miller, a man who, as director of vocational education for the
Province, has been accustomed to relating educational plans to the
practical requirements of Uie industries.


At the Ogden hospital the convalescent soldier is urged, as soon as
he is able, to attend one of the classes which are there in progress.
The decision to do so is voluntary, but the medical officer and voca-
tional officer and his assistants have so stimulated interest among the
men that requests are received from them when still in bed to save
places for them until they can get about.

There is a general commercial course, within th<^ limits of which
the pupils specialize in bookkeeping or in stenography and type-
writing. The minimum length of the course is six months, and
whenever necessary the period is extended. Here is opportunity for
men of quite severe physical handicap, even for cases of arm ampu-
tation, provided there is reasonable mental capacity upon which to
build. Men of varied experience can adapt themselves to the work.
In the bookkeeping section one man had been a steam fitter, another
a clerk in a hardware store, a third had been a restaurant employee.
The effort is not to turn out expert accountants, but rather men so
trained that they can keep books of a retail store or do work of similar

Another class is for teaching the English language to disabled sol-
diers of allied nationality — foreigners who had enlisted for service
in the Canadian forces. The objective method of instruction is used,
the men being taught the English words for specific objects, and
later shown how to construct sentences to express their simple wants.
This makes it unnecessary for the instructor to know the native lan-
guage of the pupil, and it is possible to have in a single class men of
varied tongues.

A third class prepares men for civil-service examinations, with a
view tc^employment in Government departments. This is especially
appropriate, as returned soldiers are given preference in appointment
to civil-service positions. Arithmetic, spelling, composition, and
commercial geography are the principal subjects of instruction.

In the woodworking shop the men can have elementary training in
carpentry. They make simple articles of furniture, which they are
permitted to take home when leaving the hospital. There is also
training in mechanical drafting.

For the men whose disabilities made it important for them to be out
of doors a garden club and a poultry club were formed. Gardening
and care of chickens proved very valuable in the way of beneficial
exercise. The men's appetites became more normal and their sleep
less fitful ; the exercise was especially beneficial to the men who had
suffered from gas poisoning. There are 8 or 10 chicken houses for the
men taking poultry work. Each of the garden workers has a plot
one twenty-fourth of an acre in extent, the product of which he is free
to dispose of. Several of the men took prizes on their products at
the local agricultural fair.


All the work so far described comes within the category of occupa-
tional therapy, which may be entered upon informally by any man
resident at the convalescent hospital, but which ceases when the
medical officer declares the treatment completed and discharges the
man from the institution.

But it has been provided that any man debarred from resuming his
former employment by disability incurred in the war, yet capable with
special training of becoming self-supporting in some new trade, may
be " reeducated " at the expense of the Invalided Soldier's Commis-
sion. As early as possible in the man's convalescence he is interviewed
and put through a " vocational survey," in order to determine what is
the wise course for him to pursue. The soldier is informed regarding
the possibilities and, after his confidence has been gained, he is
advised by the vocational officer. It is necessary, however, that the
final choice be concurred in by the man himself. He then comes
befcjre the Disabled Soldiers' Training Board, made up of the district
vocational officer, a special medical officer, and a representative of the
local employment organization dealing with placement of returned
men. This board reviews the program for the man's training, ap-
proves it if satisfactory, determines the place and method of instruc-
tion, estimates the length of the course and the cost, and recommends
the proposal to the authorities of the commission at Ottawa. If
there is no objection, the district vocational officer is instructed to
carry out the plan suggested. This process is described in more
detail elsewhere in the present chapter.

If the crippled soldier enters on the prescribed oourse of training
and decides he made a mistake in the choice, he is given an oppor-
tunity to change by going again through the same process. If he
does not make as rapid progress as expected, his period of training
may be extended.

The man approved for reeducation may thus be discharged from
the army without prejudice to his educational work. As his military
pay ceases, his pension and vocational allowance begin, also an
allowance for his wife and family, or other dependents. The net
total of these various payments is, in most cases, rather more than
he received while still in the service. He may thus pursue his
training without the burden of financial worry.

The informal occupational work of the hospital period frequently
dovetails with the reeducational instruction. Thus a man who
casually enters a commercial class and finds he likes the work, may
continue at bookkeeping under the reeducational category. The
simple shop work of the invalid often helps to disclose a mechanical
talent along one line or another.

For guidance in the choice of trades in which disabled soldiers
should be trained, Alberta was in an unusually favorable situation.


Just prior to the war there had been planned a vocational survey
of the Province, the results of which were to determine the lines in
which additional trained workers were required, and thus to indi-
cate the subjects in which vocational education should be provided.
The findings of this survey came in very usefully in dealing with
disabled soldiers, because the jobs for which employers needed more
trained men were just those for which the disabled soldiers might
most profitably be prepared.

All the reeducation work of an industrial character is provided
at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art, at Calgary. The
pupils as civilians live with their families, board where they please,
and attend the institute as day pupils. This Provincial Institute of
Technology and Art has been organized as a link in the general sys-
tem of public education in Alberta. Its plan was most practical ; in
the words of the director, " it was to perform the same service to
trade and commerce as do the universities to the professions." When
the returned soldiers began to arrive home, it was decided to defer
its opening to regular pupils and turn it over temporarily to the
use of war cripples.

Here a variety of trades are taught most capably ; they can not all
be described in detail. There are courses in machine-shop practice,
gas-engine operation (stationary or tractor), automobile mechanics
(operation and repair), electric power station practice, railroad or
commercial telegraphy, surveying, architectural drafting, and the
manufacture and repair of artificial limbs.

To see in operation one of the most interesting classes, it is neces-
sary to go several miles out on the prairie, for it is here that the
advanced instruction in gas-engine operation, specializing in tractor
practice, is given. Here the men, with almost no assistance from
their instructor, plow up virgin soil and do a full day's work under
conditions fully as difficult as they will encounter later in actual
employment. The average course in this subject is about eight
months in length, during which time the men learn both the theory
and operation of the gasoline engine. They start on the floor of
the shop with a stationary engine which they take apart and put
together again. Later, the instructor puts it out of gear, for the
men to locate the trouble and make the indicated repairs or adjust-
ments. At the same time the men are receiving instruction in such
simple features of mathematics and engineering drafting as will be
of help to them in their work.

One interesting activity is the preparation of men to serve as
sanitary inspectors. The course is intended especially for men who
have in the past been plumbers, steamfitters, or carpenters, or who
have had elementary medical training. To undertake this work suc-
cessfully, it is considered that the man must have superior address


and personality. Graduates of this course take . examinations for
ihe certificate of the Royal Sanitary Institute, which is a recognized
qualification throughout the British Empire. The men are em-
ployed by municipal health authorities in food plants, abattoirs, and
the like.

At the institute there are classes in mathematics in which the men
work out problems arising in their mechanical work, and classes in
English in which they write reports of their technical activities.
There is also elementary instruction in chemistry for men taking up
any line where this would prove helpful.

The Invalided Soldier's Commission meets the expenses of this
training, but the Province of Alberta has assisted by providing the
building and most of the equipment of the Institute of Technology
and in other ways.

Men who have educational attainments of a certain grade may be
trained in the normal schools of the province to be public school
teachers, manual arts teachers, or instructors in commercial subjects.
These opportunities are especially good. In such instances the Prov-
ince meets every expense except the maintenance of the pupil and his
dependents and the books and supplies which he may individually
require. Agricultural instruction is provided in the farming schools
of the Province under similar terms.

To complete a description of the facilities for disabled soldiers in
Alberta, it should be added that in Edmonton, the large city in the
northern section of the Province, there is a convalescent hospital with
accommodation for 250 men, and exactly comparable with the Ogden
institution already described. Here are maintained classes in com-
mercial subjects and occupational work in gardening and woodwork-
ing. Men at any point in Alberta, approved for industrial reeduca-
tion courses, come to Calgary for instruction.

At Frank, in the southern part of the Province, is a hospital for
tubercular cases accommodating 55 patients. One teacher gives in-
struction in commercial subjects.

So much for an objective description of the reeducational facilities
in the Province of Alberta. Yet with all the equipment and organiza-
tion, the results might be extremely poor. Since they are, however,
unusually successful, the reasons may be disclosed by a critical con-
sideration. What conclusions evolved by practical experience will
afford guidance in the organization of similar work in the United

One of the first reasons for success is the caliber of the men direct
ing it. This requires no analysis or elaboration. It should not re-
quire comment.

Another factor making for the quality of the results of the plan
is its treatment as industrial rather than as manual training. Every


effort is made to approximate in difficulty and character the condi-
tions of the men's instruction to the conditions of employment which
they will enter.

The teachers are skilled operatives of wide practical experience,
rather than pedagogues. The first effort is to find a competent man
who has seen military services overseas. The second choice is a physi-
cally handicapped civilian ; the third a civilian not eligible for mili-
tary service. It is an inflexible rule, however, that no instructors
shall be in uniform. Even men taken from the military service per-
form their instructional work as civilians.

The relations of the vocational officers with the representatives of
organized labor are most intimate and cordial. There is frequent con-
ference with the Provincial Trades and Labor Council and its local
branches. The labor men have been helpful further in advising as to
essential features of instruction and in other ways.

The most important feature of all — one on which success or failure
depends — is the character of personal relation between the educational
officers and the individual men. It is to the perfection of this relation
in the Alberta organization that must be ascribed the major share of
credit for the results obtained. The situation throws much light also
on the discussion as to whether men under reeducation should, in the
American plan, be retained under military discipline.

It has already been said that the decision on the part of the soldier
to undertake training must be voluntary. The necessity for this is
almost self-evident, for, though a man under military discipline can
be ordered to a class room, he can not be made receptive or enthu-
siastic. The unwilling pupil will learn little indeed. But the volun-
tary choice can be stimulated and inspired.

Before urging the convalescent soldier to take up some line of
occupational work, the vocational officers in Canada make an earnest
effort to become personally acquainted with him and to gain his con-
fidence and friendship. They treat him in every way as an equal,
no more and no less. In dealing with a civilian, the returned man
is entirely at ease and talks confidentially over all the aspects of his
present situation and future prospects. In this relation it is easy to
persuade him to undertake some activity instead of passing in leisure
long hours of tedium; particularly is this true when the class work
is interesting and the results useful. It should be recalled, however,
that the relation described is not easy of establishment between a
private in the service — worn out and discouraged — and a superior
officer. In the presence of a major the average private is more or
less awed and not in a position to discuss freely personal and intimate

So the vocational officers establish over the men an influence more
effective than cold and formal discipline. It is established by pains-


taking individual attention, tact, an understanding sympathy, and
personal force. Its establishment is costly because the number of
soldiers under such "discipline" by a given man is limited, and
because the strength of character and general caliber of the voca-
tional official must be well above the average. Lacking in these quali-
fications, the adviser must be a failure in his job, and the quicker he
is weeded out the better for his pupil veterans.

An example of the cooperation of educational authorities and
pupils may be seen in the students' council at the Institute of Tech-
nology and Art. This council has limited powers of self-government.
It works out the social and recreational program and recently voted
for an increase in the daily hours of work. The school management
asked the council for advice on the content of some of the courses.
The answers were seriously considered, and many of the recommenda-
tions were adopted and incorporated into the curriculum. Such a
relation discounts the agitation of the " sorehead." The men have
particularly requested that they be thoroughly prepared for the
employment to which they will go, even if studies must be made

That the men appreciate the value of training has been evidenced
in several ways. Some graduates of the course in moving-picture
operating who were already at work in regular jobs asked if there
could not be organized for them a morning course in optics, so that
they might be enabled to make further progress in their field.
Needless to say this was gladly done.


When it appears from a soldier's medical record and physical con-
dition that it is possible or likely that he will not be able to return to
his former occupation, a survey of the man is made by a vocational
counsellor, or vocational officer. In this survey a special form is
used and is reprdduced herewith :

Form 106.

Military Hospitals Commission — Vocational Branch.
Subvey Fokm.

A General: M. H. C. File No

1. Name Local file No

Address (present)

Address (home)

Regiment No Rank Battalion, C. E. F

Age (last birthday) Birthplace

If born abroad, date came to Canada Religion

Nationality of father ; of mother Occupation of father

A. General — Continued.

2. Man's dependents —


Date of Dlrth.



Children 1

Other dependents.

3. Eddcational History. — Elementary schooling —
Where obtained Kind of school


(If in more than one place or country, give time, etc., in each.)
Age on leaving Grade or standard on leaving

Reason for leaving

(Needed to earn money ; preferred to go to work ; no higher school available, etc.)

Subsequent education.

Notb. — State whether (1) high or secondary school, (2) technical or trade
school, (3) business college, (4) college or university, (5) evening classes,
(6) correspondence school, (7) private study.

(a) Name of school Place

Course taken Yiurs '. Was course completed

(S) Name of school Place

Course taken Years Was course completed

(o) Name of school . Place

Course taken Years Was course completed

(d) Any other education

Industrial History.

(a) Trade or principal occupation How long followed

If learned by apprenticeship, or how Average wage per month

(i) Trade or occupation at time of enlistment How long followed

(c) Details of employment including (a) and (6).





Average wage
per month.






Note. — If " clerk," " warehouseman,'
Date 19

Interviewed by.

laborer," or other general term, state specific
(Man's signature.)

B. Report of vocational officer (reeducation cases) :
5. Man's preference for future occupation —

First preference Reason for it-

Second preference Reason for it-


B. Report of vocational officer — Continued.
6. Personal characteristics —

(A) (O) Recreations (*) Hobbies

(c) Favorite reading

id) Habits, as drinking (e) Smoking

(B) (o) Personal appearance

(b) Manner

(C) Intelligence (general capacity). Grade

(D) Occupational stability, (a) Grade

(6) If candidate is changeable, state type of change

(c) Extent of change

(d) Cause of change

(e) If candidate is changeable, has the vocational officer reasons for thinking

that he will become stable (/) if so, what?

(E) Disposition. (a) Sociability (b) Has candidate any emo-
tional characteristic that the vocational officer would consider either a busi-
ness asset or a business handicap? (c) If so, what?

(F) (a) Conduct on service (b) Conduct in convalescent home_

7. Training during convalescence (subjects and results)

8. Type of vocations for which ability and aptitude are evident-

9. Vocational officer's preference and reason for it

(a) Is a position available for the man on the completion of his training for the

new occupation as recommended? ,

If so, state where and at what rate of pay

(b) If no definite position is in view, has the vocational officer satisfied himself

that the prospects for employment are good?

10. Method and place of training recommended

11. Estimated period Tuition fees, $ Books and materials, ?-

Date , 19

(Vocational officer.)

Note. — Sections 6 to 9 are to be regarded as a confidential report of information and
Impressions obtained by the vocational officer during one or more personal interviews
with the candidate, or from any other sources. The information asked for in section 6,
subsections (A) to (E) is to be given in terms named in the confidential instructions
issued for the guidance of vocational officers.

C. Report of special medical officer :

12. Last medical board held at , on , 19

Note. — If any medical boards have been held since the one at discharge depot on

arrival in Canada, u copy of the last board must be sent with survey form to
head office M. H. C.

13. (a) Nature of disability

(b) Nature of wound or affection from which disability resulted

(c) Date of origin (d) Place of origin

C. Report of special medical officer — Continued.

14. Present physical condition

(This section must be filled in as fully as possible.)

(a) Height (6) Weight (without overcoat) (c) Girth, chestl I

Insp.|Exp. lExpan.

15. Have any complications developed since the holding of last medical board?

If so, what?

16. (For amputation cases) —

(a) State nature of amputation, etc

(6) Length of stump (c) Character of stump

(d) Power of stump (e) Usefulness of stump

(/) What artificial appliances are required? (ff) Have any been ordered?

(h) Have any been received? (i) Are any being worn?

17. (o) Present degree of incapacity (stated in percentages)— (6) Probable duration

(6) If so, state the manner in which his disability will be a handicap

(e) Estimated degree of permanent incapacity

Note. — In estimating incapacity, the medical officer will follow the instructions

issued by the board of pension commissioners.

18. State your reasons why candidate will be unable to follow his former occupation

19. (a) Will the disability of the candidate handicap him in his competition with the

normal worker in the occupation suggested by vocational officer?

(6) If so, state the manner in which his disability will be a handicap

20. (a) Will candidate's disability increase his liability to hazards in the occupation

suggested by vocational officer?

(6) If so, state the hazard and precautions to be observed

21. Influence of increasing years, (a) Will candidate be able to carry on as long as

the normal worker in the occupation suggested by the vocational officer?

(6) If not, how much sooner may he have to give up?

(c) State any conditions which, in later life, may develop from the candidate's
disability and interfere with his vocational fitness

22. (a) Will the candidate's condition demand any special consideration from his

employer, such as shorter hours, periods of rest, light work, special type of

work, or machine, etc.?

(b) If so, what

23. Remarks

Date ■ 19 Signature.


D. Recommendations of disabled soldiers' training board :

(Vocational officer.)
(Medical member.)

Place Date , 19

(Member of local advisory
E. (For head office use only) :

25. Medical review. Are the replies to sections 17 to 24 herein concurred in?

If not, state specifically in each case the reasons for nonconcurrence.

, 19

(Medical officer.)

, 19

(Vocational secretary.)

The procedure in interviewing the disabled soldiers and in filling
out the forms has been described so fully by T. B. Kidner, director
of vocational training for the Military Hospitals Commission, that
his statement can be quoted to advantage :

The survey form "A," as It is termed, contains the usual particulars of the
man's name and address, his regimental number, and so forth, his age last
birthday, his birthplace, and if born abroad, the date he came to Canada ; his
religion, the nationality of his father and his mother, and the occupation of his
father. The occupation of the father is often significant with men from the
older countries where they follow the father's trade. Quite often a man will
tell you if you ask him where he learned his trade: "I picked it up running
around with my father." Next, the form deals with the man's elementary
schooling — where obtained, the kind of school and how many years, the age


Online LibraryDouglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrieThe evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors → online text (page 24 of 38)