Five Canadian colleges and a national advocacy body have formed the Canadian College Consortium for Cannabis, an entity that will serve as a first-of-a-kind in the post-secondary sector.
Okanagan College will be the first institution in B.C. to join the consortium, which also includes NorQuest College in Edmonton, Niagara and Durham Colleges in Ontario, Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB), along with Colleges and Institutes Canada (CiCan). All recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) outlining opportunities to work together through the Consortium to explore and pursue joint Cannabis training and applied research opportunities.
“Cannabis training is so multi-faceted,” says Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Director of Continues Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College. “We continue to work very closely with industry to ensure we’re offering education and training that reflect the very real skills gaps and challenges they face – from cultivation to retail to investing in emerging technologies like Blockchain, all of which play a role in the overall picture of a rapidly evolving industry.”
“Collaborating with other post-secondary institutions and bodies that are developing training, conducting research, or otherwise have depth of knowledge in this area is only going to help us deliver programs that are beneficial for students and for the industry.”
Providing a clear conduit to share knowledge and help drive innovation was one of the goals guiding the launch of the consortium.
“Cannabis is a rapidly growing industry. Creating this consortium is a great example of how post-secondary institutions from across Canada can join forces and leverage coordinated efforts to solve problems and drive education and innovation in the economy,” says Marian Gayed, Vice President of Business Development at NorQuest, Edmonton’s community college.
Okanagan College made headlines in fall of 2017 when it became one of the first in the sector in B.C. to implement a Cannabis course – “The Emerging Marijuana Industry” – through its School of Business. The course educated students to the regulatory process and emerging business impacts of legalization, in the context of the Canadian economy.
The College’s Continuing Studies and Corporate Training Department launched programming in fall of 2018.
Uptake and feedback on the offerings has been very positive over the past year, notes Silvestrone.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest across the board, from the cultivation side of things to courses on implications of cannabis and the workplace, around facility practices and business fundamentals. We’re encouraged by the breadth of interest so far, which helps us continue to refine and build out our program array.”
In June of this year, Canada’s first class in commercial cannabis production graduated from Niagara, while Okanagan, Durham, and CCNB all have cannabis related courses ranging from cannabis cultivation to pest management for cannabis production and medical cannabis fundamentals for business professionals.
It is expected that the consortium will grow in size as more colleges enter the world of cannabis programming.