Canopy Growth, Niagara College ink education partnership
Demand for highly skilled workforce will rise significantly as the Canadian cannabis industry continues to expand. This is according to proponents of a new educational initiative that will create experience-based learning and applied research opportunities for commercial cannabis growth and production.
Niagara College and Canopy Growth Corporation have signed a memorandum of understanding that will open up hands-on learning opportunities for students in the college’s horticulture and greenhouse technician programs, business programs and its soon-to-launch commercial cannabis production graduate certificate program. The students will be placed at Canopy’s Tweed Farms location in Niagara-on-the-Lake – with additional potential opportunities at the company’s 12 other facilities throughout Canada – through internships and co-op opportunities.
“With Canopy’s new infrastructure and growing space come the need for new people,” said Mark Zekulin, president, Canopy Growth. Tweed Farms, for instance, is expanding its 350,000 square-foot facility to over a million square feet of greenhouse space this month – which means more skilled workers will be required. The same is true for Canopy’s other facilities across Canada.
“At times we’ve had 600 active job postings across the company,” Zekulin said, adding that the partnership with Niagara College, which allows for hands-on learning, ensures graduates of the programs are fully qualified by the time they start work at Canopy or at other cannabis production facilities.
The Niagara College-Canopy Growth partnership is also expected to pave the way for applied research projects in business operations, plant science and greenhouse technology, said Dan Patterson, president of Niagara College.
“At the top of this educational partnership is a profound belief that a highly skilled workforce is really key to success,” Patterson said. “Niagara College will develop advanced skills for graduates in this emerging industry.”
In September 2018, Niagara College will launch its new Commercial Cannabis Production Graduate Certificate program. Dubbed as Canada’s first post-secondary program focused on the production of commercial cannabis, it is expected to welcome its first batch of 24 students this fall.
Patterson said the journey to creating this new commercial cannabis production program began three years ago when the College engaged with cannabis producers to find out the skills needed in the emerging cannabis labour market. Understanding the needs of the producers was at the core of this program, he said.
“We have often been referred to as the ‘pre-emptive college,’ anticipating labour markets, not just of today but of tomorrow,” Patterson noted.
Students enrolled in the new commercial cannabis production program will be trained in cultivation and practices of cannabis production, as well as in navigating the complex regulatory framework that governs the Canadian cannabis industry.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Mayor Pat Darte welcomed the collaboration between Canopy and Niagara College and hopes the program will help attract young families and students to his town.
“It means that we’ve got more kids coming for education here. It means we have more young people working here at good jobs. It’s a huge benefit to the town as we try to make our community younger,” the mayor said.