Explore the first college cannabis program in Canada
Niagara College Canada is home to Canada’s first post-secondary certificate program in commercial cannabis production.
NIAGARA-ON-LE-LAC, ONT. – 2 On Your Side takes you to cannabis college, the only program of its kind in Canada where students earn a graduate certificate in commercial cannabis production.
Students in the program attend class in Niagara-on-the-Lake at Niagara College Canada. Inside five modernized shipping containers, you’ll find students at work looking to launch their careers in the nascent cannabis industry.
“What got you interested in this?” Asked Kelly Dudzik of 2 On Your Side.
“Well, I’ve always loved cannabis all through high school and so on, and it’s always been a passion of mine,” student Carson Otto said.
Following: Inside the Commercial Cannabis Lab at Niagara College
Following: Cannabis College: Web Extras
“It seemed like a logical step to me as the industry opened up and there was just a huge need for producers, right? A huge need for educated people,” replied Denzil Rose.
EXTRA WEB: Students explain why they want to learn the profession of cannabis cultivation
Carson Otto and Denzil Rose are two of the first Canadians to be accepted into the Graduate Certificate Program in Commercial Cannabis Production at Niagara College. Otto was a chemical engineer trying to enter the pharmaceutical field. Rose graduated from the college’s greenhouse technology program last year.
The cannabis program only accepts 24 students three times a year. Over three hundred applied for the inaugural September class.
“How do people react when you tell them that’s why you go to school?” Dudzik asked.
“The old people are like congratulations wow, it’s a growing industry. Then the younger ones, you know, give me props and they’re nice, you grow weed in school,” explains Otto.
“Like even my grandmother used to say to people, hey, my grandson, he grows pot at school. So it’s pretty impressive to see that and get that reaction from people,” Rose said. .
“Here we have the benches where we actually grow the cannabis. And we have the plants here. We teach the students different cultivation methods,” Bill MacDonald explained inside the lab.
EXTRA WEB: Niagara College Students Learn How To Grow Cannabis For The Growing Industry
MacDonald is the Commercial Cannabis Production Program Coordinator. He is also a teacher. He was the coordinator of the greenhouse technician program at Niagara College, when five years ago he began consulting in the cannabis industry.
“And seeing how it was transforming the greenhouse industry and walked up to college and said, hey, we have to do a program because it’s transforming the whole greenhouse industry, the growing industry, and a lot. of licensed producers were coming to me and telling me that we need qualified producers. We don’t have enough talented and experienced people, ”says MacDonald.
MacDonald says the college administration was on board.
“Everything here has been specially constructed. As you can see, when you walked in… an eight foot fence, barbed wire, cameras everywhere, so it’s 24/7 surveillance. Keypad, keypad identification to enter, so yeah … that’s a massive, massive engagement, ”MacDonald says.
And, since there is nothing else like it, MacDonald built the one-year graduate certificate program from scratch.
“We did it with licensed producers. We went to them and said, “What do you need? Then we invited them to criticize it, then, okay, how do we change it? So it was really built with the licensed producers, ”says MacDonald.
“That way you know that once the students go through the program, they will have skills that they can actually use in the field,” Dudzik said.
“Exactly, we don’t tell licensed producers that’s what you get. They told us what they wanted and that’s what we teach the students,” MacDonald said.
EXTRA WEB: Teaching Students How to Grow Cannabis at Niagara College in Canada
To be considered, you must have a degree in a related field such as agriculture or plant science. Although the main focus is on growth, this is the only program where they grow plants, there is a lot more to do.
“So it’s a really well balanced program because they learn about plant chemistry, plant biology, and then also the business side of things,” Dudzik said.
“Yes, the business side, of course. And the big problem is the regulations. Everything must be done, everything must be documented. We take a leaf from a plant, we have to document it. Seriously, ”says MacDonald.
“What do you think would surprise people about what you learn? Anything ? Dudzik asked.
“Well, I think it’s surprising that we were going to school to grow weed. I think that’s a surprising factor for sure. But it depends who you talk to. Like I said, a lot of people who don’t know the culture think it’s a very easy thing. So a lot of the stuff we learn, people don’t even think about when they grow weed, do they? Said Otto.
Otto says he wants to work for a licensed producer and eventually start his own business.
Rose hopes to rise through the ranks and become a master farmer.
“It’s not just an underground business anymore. It’s a very legitimate business and people want to go to school to prove legitimacy and prove professionalism, and I think that’s an extremely important factor. “is $ 1 billion, so the industry will only expand globally,” says Rose.
This is something the college realized very early on and is taking into consideration as the program evolves.
“What does the future of the program look like? Dudzik asked.
“I think for now we’re going to continue with our three cohorts per year. 24 students is what we think we can train well given the facilities we have here. We were encouraged to consider increasing maybe how many people we can let in, but we don’t want to abandon the practical approach we take, ”said Alan Unwin, associate dean of the School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies at Niagara College.
MacDonald believes many students will have jobs before they graduate.
“What advice would you give them if they want to study cannabis? Dudzik asked.
“Be professional. It’s really about knowing your science. Knowing your regulations. Go with your eyes open to the fact that this is a really emerging field. There’s a bright future; you’re going to have to work hard. and long hours, ”says MacDonald.
MacDonald says entry level salaries in Canada are probably in the range of $ 50,000 to $ 60,000. Currently, the commercial cannabis production program is only open to Canadians.