Greenhouse Canada

Inside View: Education – Cost or investment?

July 12, 2023  By Gary Jones

As a Brit, I enjoy (most of the time) keeping an eye on ‘The Beautiful Game’. Football. (If you really have to call it soccer, that’s your prerogative). It brings a full ten months’ season of drama and, hopefully, delightful unpredictability (unless your team is Man City). Now that this year is in the books, post-season interviews with coaches often seem to provide quotes along the lines of ‘We’ll do better next year’ or ‘Unless we continue to improve, we’ll get left behind’. It made me think of a headline in Grower Talks recently: “Consistent, Relentless Improvement”1. Absolutely. Of course, that article was not about ‘footy’, but was related to ornamentals cuttings and investing in facilities for improvement in product quality.

But as in football, we need to have the same mindset for our businesses to move forward. One of the great things about our industry is that there is always something new to learn. Training (typically hands-on, often practical and repeated) can often be done in-house, bringing staff up to speed with how you do things and want things done in your business. This may be practices you’ve done for years, or in new areas of work, such as pest/disease management techniques. Education (more often than not, knowledge transfer) usually employs external input, and one of the great places for industry-specific education is our fabulous season of trade shows and seminars. For example, one of the tag lines for Cultivate 23™ (July 15-18) is “Essential Education all in one Place.” According to their website, you can “Attend any of the more than 160+ educational sessions, half- or full-day workshops, or industry production tours to learn new skills and network with your peers so you and your business thrive now and into the future.”2  Kudos to American Hort® or developing such a diverse program of topics and speakers, as well as a great trade show.

What a great venue for learning and development. But my experience is that the vast majority of attendees at such trade events are company owners or managers. Rarely are there ‘regular’ staff enjoying these shows. Is this a missed opportunity? While locations of trade shows obviously do not suit all companies all the time, next time there is one near you perhaps consider taking a bunch of staff not just to walk the show floor to see new products, but consider registering them in the educational sessions. You may see this as a cost. However, think about what you get and rather think of it as a valuable investment. If you don’t want to take a number of people, maybe turn it into a friendly competition with the winner(s) getting to go. There are all kinds of ways to make this interesting, and this might be a good vehicle for staff development in itself!


You may also fear that as you educate and develop your employees, there is a danger they will leave for other employers. Sure, that may be a risk. But then again, if employees recognize you investing in them personally, aren’t they more likely to want to stick around and do their best for you? And back to the footy analogy, when did you last hear of a team manager or coach not wanting to develop his or her players to get the best of their abilities? Also, in so doing, your company will build a reputation of being a great employer, and perhaps you’ll benefit from people wanting to come join you; people who most likely will be bringing with them a pre-developed skill set from their previous employer. Win-win.

I’m happy to report that my team managed to stay in the Premier League this year, despite being ‘the strongest team’ (i.e. bottom of the table, holding everyone else up) at Christmas. Here’s to next season – there is plenty of room for my team to indulge in heaps of consistent, relentless improvement’. How about yours?  

Calkins, Bill. ‘Consistent, Relentless Improvement’ (April ’23) Grower Talks. accessed 24 May ’23.

Gary Jones sits on greenhouse industry committees in B.C. and welcomes comments at

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