Workforce Needs Flexible Education Approach: Greenspan

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2001 ( - Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told participants at the 21st Century Workforce Summit that the nation's education system must continue to meet the "complex range of skills" required of the American workforce.

Greenspan also noted that businesses and labor unions are “placing greater emphasis on the value of formal education and training programs”, as well as corporate universities, partnerships with community colleges and relationships with public agencies, including welfare-to-work and school-to-work programs.

Greenspan’s version of a flexible education system would integrate work and training, while serving the needs of workers at different stages in their careers. His model would take advantage of:

  • Community colleges as a resource for refreshing and/or broadening knowledge
  • Internet delivered training that can be taken “at a so-called distance”

Technology Boost

Greenspan noted the continued ability of technology to, not only develop new tools, but to bring those tools within the grasp of relatively unskilled labor. “Once technology becomes more user friendly, the ability of the general workforce to create value is greatly facilitated,” according to Greenspan.

He cited a survey indicating labor quality as the most important concern for 20% of small businesses in 1998, up from less than 5% in 1993. However, he also noted that lower education rates did not appear to be shutting workers out ? or creating an unmanageable problem for employers, despite a tightening labor market.

Greenspan also noted that technology was allowing workers to “vastly multiply” their workplace contributions, for example when a retail sales clerk not only handled a sale, but “fed” information to the accounting, inventory and supplier processes.

However, he also acknowledged that workers must not only know how to work with the technologies, but also to have the ability to better “create, analyze, and transform information”, as well as to “effectively interact electronically with others”. This process will be facilitated by the transformation of learning to a lifelong activity.

He also cautioned that “the pressure to enable all workers to benefit from the new technologies also requires that we strengthen the significant contributions of other types of training and educational programs, especially for those with lesser skills.”