Today’s Graduates Are Tomorrow’s Cannabis Industry Innovators

byAlanaArmstrong4 minutes

It's somewhat typical for new cannabis industry hires to lack cannabis experience on their resume at first, but end up with a healthy career in the business. They may never have held a marijuana plant, but their degrees in agriculture, marketing and business were enough to allow them entry into a burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Now that we have a better idea of where the market for medical and recreational cannabis is heading, schools are catering to young students who are willing to leap into niche training, such as how to grow a regulated crop and how to market products under strict rules. The courses are shorter and cost less than most college offerings—and in one case they're free.

Today's high school students may not feel comfortable telling the guidance counsellor that their dream job is in marijuana, but the dollars they spend on enrolling in the following classes are helping expand the pioneer cannabis courses at a few Canadian colleges.

Online Cannabis Courses at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Three years ago, before banks would do business with even the publicly traded cannabis producers, Kwantlen's Director of Emerging Business David Purcell saw the need to create an educational stream for producing, marketing and financing medicinal marijuana.

"The demand [for cannabis-focused coursework] has risen significantly as we approach recreational legalization, obviously. You can't go a day without seeing some sort of news about cannabis or regulation of the upcoming recreational market," says Purcell.

About 1,200 adults have taken the Kwantlen Polytechnic University online class already, and the program is being expanded to keep up with its demand.

Commercial Cannabis Production Course at Niagara College

Niagara College's Niagara-on-the-lake campus is offering a year-long, two-semester commercial cannabis production course that earns each student an undergraduate degree or diploma. The course is geared towards its graduates, working in senior level positions at a licensed producer (LP), who need to learn both crop cultivation and the legal framework behind growing and selling marijuana as medicine.

The course received 300 applicants for just 24 spots in its first year. The school of environmental and horticultural studies is optimistic that this level of interest will only help increase the course's capacity and scope beyond its debut year.

Free Cannabis Course at New Brunswick Community College

This 12-week course was announced last fall, and the provincial government is covering the tuition for all 24 students, some with relevant backgrounds in science and horticulture, and some just looking for a steady job in a booming industry.

Teaching and taking classes about the production of cannabis isn’t considered an offence just as long as students don't practice their skills on real cannabis plants in the classroom. Using other plants as mock marijuana, the instruction they receive is specific to growing medical marijuana.

Once they graduate, students shouldn’t have to move far to find their dream job. They may even receive offers of employment from local LPs Organigram and Zenabis, both of which have experienced a grow-op technician deficit in the past.

Continuing Education With Cannabis at Dalhousie University

Dalhousie’s Continuing Education College is the latest to jump on the trend of offering online courses in marijuana growing, marketing and entrepreneurship. The coursework is aimed at preparing students to work within Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). And since it's a short course, graduates get a certificate of completion instead of an academic credit.


Tweed Now Hiring

Smith Falls, Ontario is where a pair of Canadians turned a Hershey's chocolate factory into the country’s first medical marijuana producers—Canopy Growth Corporation—and then into one of the first publicly traded grow-ops. One of its founders, Bruce Linton, studied public policy at Carleton University and entered the industry through political channels.

At that time, specific training for the marijuana market was severely lacking, but the future of adult-use cannabis wasn't particularly bright. Now, anyone that Tweed, one of Canopy Growth’s most recognized brands, hires is more likely to come by way of a recognized cannabis program. At the time of writing, Tweed had 21 openings waiting to be filled.

And not all courses are geared toward the whipper-snapper millennials that Tweed seems to like. For professionals looking to pivot their practice toward medicinal marijuana, there are short courses like Durham College's Medical Cannabis Fundamentals for Business Professionals. This weekend course caters to established health-care workers, investors, entrepreneurs and holistic practitioners who want to study up on cannabis and return to work on Monday.

In Canada's legal cannabis industry, valued at $23 billion, there will be demand for cannabis-centric education in retail, transportation and security, culinary arts, tax accounting, culture and tourism. If schools need ideas for new courses, they only need to look to the cannabis industry for them.

Photo credit: Caleb Woods