(Canadian Press photo)

B.C. universities, colleges offering more training for marijuana industry

A university in Surrey is training students for the future of legalized pot

From growing the perfect crop to marketing within restrictive rules, Canadian colleges and universities are cultivating courses for those wanting to work in the booming marijuana industry.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University started offering online courses in cannabis production, marketing and financing about three years ago after officials at the British Columbia school realized there was a need for training and education around medicinal marijuana, said David Purcell, the university’s director of emerging business.

READ: Pot shops speak out on B.C.’s proposed rules on age, retail plan

Demand is skyrocketing, prompting Kwantlen to offer the classes every four weeks instead of every eight to keep up with demand, he said.

“The uptake in the last six months or so, the demand 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,” Purcell said.

About 1,200 people have taken the classes, most of whom are between 25 and 40 years old and were working full-time in another industry, he said.

The university isn’t alone in offering marijuana-related courses. Niagara College is working on a certificate in marijuana production and the New Brunswick Community College is already teaching cultivation.

There’s been a void in the educational marketplace when it comes to training specifically for the burgeoning marijuana market, said Debbie Johnston, dean of the school of continuing education at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont.

“Employers are struggling to find people with that industry-specific knowledge. It’s an opportunity that, quite frankly, hasn’t been met and we saw it and we thought, this is a great thing to get into,” she explained.

Durham College recently began offering a two-day course that provides an introduction to all things marijuana.

The first sessions were well attended, Johnston said, attracting a variety of professions, including a chef, a farmer, investors and health-care workers.

Marijuana companies are looking for professionals, like accountants or business managers, who have industry-specific knowledge, from the terminology and history of the industry to the regulatory framework and basics of cannabis plants, Johnston added.

READ: London Drugs ‘ready’ to dispense marijuana

“What employers want is to know that people are coming in with a basic understanding,” she said.

Alison McMahon runs Cannabis at Work, a recruiting agency for marijuana companies, and said completing cannabis courses can help candidates stand out from the crowd.

“I think what it signals more than anything is that somebody has been proactive and they have taken the time to take one of the courses that are on the market,” she said.

Right now, there aren’t a lot of job seekers with cannabis education on their resumes, McMahon noted, but that’s likely to change as both the industry and educational offerings grow.

Kwantlen and Durham College are both planning to expand the variety of marijuana classes on offer.

A course teaching responsible retail sales, safe handling and strain identification will soon be offered through Kwantlen, and the school is also working on a cultivation course that will see students go out and work with cannabis plants at licensed production facilities, Purcell said.

Durham College, meanwhile, is working on an elective about marijuana legalization and a class for medical professionals focused on cannabis in health care, Johnston said.

The new courses will likely be joined by many more down the road as the college prepares workers for the emerging industry, she said.

“It’s growing by leaps and bounds. This is where the jobs are,” she said.

Education will be vital to fighting generations of stigma around the soon-to-be legal product, Purcell said.

“In order for the industry as a whole to gain legitimacy, people really need to know what it’s all about,” he said. ”We have to alleviate the stigma and the way to do that is really teaching people what the industry’s all about.”

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tailings site near Salmo could be remediated

The tailings came from the historic Jersey-Emerald mine

Greyhound service cuts decision expected next week

Nelson could see its bus service reduced on Wednesday

Nelson to review city council pay levels

The results would apply to the next council following the municipal election this fall

Petition: reinstate band program at Mt. Sentinel

SD8 superintendent is surveying Slocan Valley students to gauge interest

Logging planned for Cottonwood Lake and Apex areas

The private land to be logged is owned by Nelson Land Corporation headed by Mike Jenks

What it means to be human (without a smartphone)

Two LVR teachers take control of phones in the classroom

Leafs lose regular season finale

Nelson was resting several players in a 3-2 loss to Beaver Valley

SKI TIPS: Sequence is everything in skiing

Whitewater Ski Team coach Dylan Henderson on the importance of movement sequence

Nelson Leafs fall to Rebels 4-1

The Leafs open the playoffs next weekend

Nelson speedskater wins two races

Ian Walgren was on the podium at a Special Olympics event

Nelson Nordic Ski Club hosts two races

The Clearwater Challenge and Kootenay Cup both ran last weekend

Five gold medals at provincials for Nelson Boxing Club

Local fighters put on a clinic last weekend

COLUMN: Love in the pages – and on the plate

Check This Out with Anne DeGrace

LETTER: Cannabis Compassion Club optimistic in legal battle with city

The downtown non-profit has been operating since 2000

Most Read