Cannabis training at KPU continues to blossom

Recreational cannabis may have been legalized just six months ago, but Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been in the game for almost four years now.

From marketing in a heavily regulated environment to plant production to starting a cannabis business, their courses cover a wide gamut.

David Purcell, Director of Emerging Business, oversees the university’s Cannabis Career Training program and says courses are in high demand.

He said a number of individuals are transitioning from another industry into cannabis and said there are some “misconceptions about what working in the cannabis industry means.”

“There is a general lack of understanding of what commercial cannabis production looks like and what the rigors of the work itself is, as well as all the quality assurance, the reporting, all those pieces that people wanting to get into the industry may not understand,” he explained. “So we not only teach about  the plant itself, but also a foundational understanding of commercial cultivation, how facilities operate, marketing, finances. It’s an excellent means by which to understand the industry before you get into it.”

Purcell acknowledged a lot of attention must be invested in updating cannabis courses regularly, given the new industry is changing quickly.

“It’s quite challenging. We knew we were going to have to face that burden. We’re building a plane as we’re flying it, and we’re all learning together,” he said, noting university staff are regularly monitoring the industry for changes that must be implemented into their classes.

Midway through 2018, in advance of recreational legalization, classes “became even more popular.”

“With that popularity we’ve developed two new courses: One is a 13-week Quality Assurance Technician course, which is understood to be one of the largest gaps in workforce training by the industry,” explained Purcell. “We developed this course in conjunction with the industry and it’s really meant to create graduates that can work under a QAP in large or small facilities. It’s very heavily focused on regulations, and also the day-to-day of what a quality assurance technician will do.”

“The second is a 26-week Cannabis Cultivation Technician course,” Purcell continued. “It’s an in-depth cultivation course. The first module is all about regulation and legislation, then the course goes through the full life cycle of cannabis…. It really covers the whole breadth of cannabis production in a commercial setting. Graduates will be ready to walk into a facility and work as a grow tech or a cultivation tech.”

Both courses will be ready to go this September, said Purcell, through KPU and their institutional partners. Through a partnership program, multiple universities across Canada – including Mount Royal University, Macewan University, Camosun College, Loyalist College and College Boreal – also deliver the KPU cannabis curriculum and will be running one or both of the new courses this fall.

Looking further to the future, KPU is also developing programs and information sessions for edibles, with finalized regulations expected to be released soon ahead of legalization later this year.

“We have a number of initiatives in development, and we’re working on new coursework now to address the future needs of the industry as well as seminars and workshops to educate the general public.”

MARKETING UNDER THE CANNABIS ACT

KPU’s popular cannabis marketing course is all about “understanding how to work in a highly regulated environment,” explained Purcell.  

“There are a number of operational and strategic challenges inherent in marketing cannabis businesses in Canada,” he said. “The course identifies the regulations, there’s an in-depth regulatory section that teaches students how to create strategic marketing plans and initiatives that are both compliant and effective.”

Purcell noted the course involves case-study work, looking at examples in other jurisdictions and “whether campaigns were compliant or not.”

This, in addition to studying current examples of marketing initiatives in the industry today and “breaking those down to see what elements have been successful, and what have been less so.”

Purcell noted there are “some companies pushing the boundaries and skirting the issues a little bit.”

“So the course delves into the campaigns, and how they’re compliant and how they may be considered to go over the line.”

Purcell said it’s important for companies to understand these regulations before setting out.

“Companies or producers can face some pretty significant consequences for not following the marketing regulations,” he said.

For more information on KPU’s cannabis program, visit kpu.ca/cannabis.

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