“Education, education and education” was how Tony Blair described his priorities for government in his party conference speech of 1996.

The former U.K. Prime Minister’s name may now be more associated with things other than education, but had he been a little more informed in certain areas, his reputation may well be higher in some quarters than it is today.

But why was this mantra so important then,  and remains so today?

Why education matters

From a production point of view, education can help to raise productivity and economic growth.

Productivity can be defined as the quantity of goods and services that a worker produces per unit of time with the skills and tools available, and the more high-productivity jobs in a company or country, the richer that company or country will be. 

Investing in education can be as important as investing in a plant or equipment. We cannot expect investment in high-productivity equipment to be optimal if there is no suitably qualified workforce available to staff such investment. So a strong commitment to education to create a workforce with high levels of productivity is a prerequisite for growth and development.

Rising rewards

Education may be outward looking seeking to inform the general public at large - and in my last post I wrote about an excellent initiative organized by the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K. - but it is just as important for any business to ensure that its workforce is as capable as possible. Be it university degrees, online courses or in-house training, the poultry sector has much to gain from keeping its human capital as educated as possible.

An educated workforce can lead to higher returns on investment and higher profits. Prices can be lower, improving market position and benefiting the consumer. There also can benefits for the environment. 

At a managerial level, managers must be able to structure their businesses optimally, allocate resources efficiently, ensure the correct production level and scope, and make sure that marketing is properly aligned. In the wider workforce, staff cannot raise a business’ output without the knowledge of how to do so. Improving worker skills is essential to strengthening competitiveness, boosting an organisation’s resilience and enhancing innovation. 

We often are told of how the demand for poultry meat will continue to rise over coming years as living standards continue to rise in the developing world, and various technologies and farming methods are put forward as the way to meet this demand. But without a workforce that knows what it is doing and working efficiently, a part of the puzzle is missing. 

And it should not be forgotten that we live in a fast-changing world with fickle consumers and markets that want flexibility and adaptability. Without a properly skilled and educated workforce, it is all too easy for producers to fall behind and disappear.