Pubdate: Mon, 05 Feb 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Gemma Karstens-Smith
Page: A3


Colleges, universities say people want to learn how to work in newly
legalized field

VANCOUVER- 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.

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,"
Purcell said.

"You can't go a day without seeing some sort of news about cannabis or
regulation of the upcoming recreational market."

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

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

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.

"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

Durham College is offering a twoday 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 such as 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.

"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 are few 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.

Acourse 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 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

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."
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MAP posted-by: Matt