A cannabis producer and community college in Edmonton have teamed up to prepare for a potential labour shortage in the industry.
Freedom Cannabis, a licensed seed-to-sale producer based in Acheson west of Edmonton, has begun offering three-day courses to students taking NorQuest College's cannabis trimming and production course.
"(We're) training them in various capacities from trimming to harvesting to packaging to a number of other disciplines," explained Freedom Cannabis Executive Director Troy Dezwart.
Students taking a cannabis trimming and production course at NorQuest College will spend three days training at Freedom Cannabis in Acheson.
"This is the last part of the program before they're able to start applying for jobs in the industry."
The company was established in 2017 and licensed by Health Canada earlier this year.
The students will join about 50 employees harvesting Freedom's first product.
That the company expects to grow to 150 employees by the end of 2020 exemplifies the need for a practical programs like the one created with NorQuest, Dezwart said.
According to an August report by Statistics Canada, the number of cannabis companies in Canada has doubled since the 2017-18 fiscal year, from 83 to 175. In that time, the number of people employed by cannabis companies more than tripled from 2,630 to 9,200.
Freedom Cannabis says there is need to train a new generation of workers as the cannabis industry continues to see supply outpace demand.
Student Devon Brown described the opportunity as surreal, but said there's been one obstacle: describing the course to friends and family.
"Telling them that I was going to school for growing pot, they all kind of looked at me like, 'What? That's a thing now?'" he laughed.
"This is something I've always wanted to do so just getting the opportunity to be in this building is fantastic."
With files from Amanda Anderson