Opportunities NB (ONB) has made cannabis a priority sector for economic growth, actively aligning our efforts to ensure the economic, academic, and regulatory portions of the industry connect. A key component of our strategy involves ensuring that New Brunswick’s workforce is trained to meet the specific needs of the province’s licensed cannabis-producing companies.

Today, that strategy bears fruit with the announcement of a new Cannabis Cultivation Technician program offered by the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB).

Michel Doucet, CCNB Executive Director of Continuing Education, spoke to ONB to offer details on the program, and the opportunities it will create for New Brunswick.

ONB: What details can you offer on the new program?  

Doucet: The Cannabis Cultivation Technician program is a new 12-week offering designed to train qualified skilled workers to work within the New Brunswick cannabis industry. This program takes into consideration the industry’s existing workforce needs and provides a blend of horticultural and cannabis-based training. This allows students to enter the workforce with the skills required to be competitive.

It’s an entry-level program focused on developing an understanding of various aspects of the cultivation of the plant and of the factors influencing the quality of the product. You’re hitting the ground running with knowledge of the plant and work in a highly-regulated environment.

The program’s first cohort will go through the course at our Dieppe campus due to workforce requirements of Moncton’s OrganiGram, the province’s first licensed cannabis producer. They have an immediate need for skilled workers so we’re delivering that first cohort in the Moncton region. However, the program is designed to be easily taken on the road wherever a need for qualified personnel arises.

Developing a skilled workforce for this industry is a huge focus for ONB. Tell us about the relationship between our two organizations.

ONB has been instrumental in this from day one. We were brought to the table by ONB a couple of years back to meet with producers that were, at that point, looking at New Brunswick as a place to set up. ONB and CCNB made it clear to these companies that we were committed to providing qualified personnel that could meet their industry’s needs.

Without ONB’s support, I’m not sure we’d be where we are with this program today. Your team has been the driving force here, not only as it relates to the growth of the industry, but in believing in homegrown workforce and training solutions.

New Brunswick has certainly taken a proactive approach to develop this sector.

Yes and this project represents a collaboration of multiple sections of government. The support of the Department of Post-Secondary, Education, Training and Labour (PETL) is vital as well. Without PETL funding would not be part of this equation. PETL’s financial support means we can get people trained at minimal cost, and have them ready to join the workforce quickly.

Without ONB’s work to make New Brunswick attractive to companies and PETL support from the training and workforce perspective CCNB would not be in this position today. We are proud to be the training provider of choice for this specialized opportunity.

ONB is confident New Brunswick can lead not just the country but the world in this sector. Would you agree?

I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country and meet with other schools, and I tell people that we can offer what we offer due to the strong support of the provincial government. The government and ONB have made it clear that cannabis is a big opportunity for us. That’s why CCNB rallied behind ONB to get training programs like this launched. This is, without a doubt, an important step for the province’s economic development efforts, and would not be possible without the guidance and support of ONB’s staff and senior leadership team.

What will legalization in 2018 mean for CCNB?

Legalization means we’ll have an opportunity to look at even more training avenues. It’s going to be a big, fast-growing sector throughout Canada, and we’re actively exploring partnerships with other training venues as we speak. This cultivation program is just the beginning I suspect; legalization means looking into programs aimed at dispensing, marketing, and retail of the product. As the industry moves forward so will CCNB.

Written by Jason Boies