With legalization just around the corner, a new Ryerson class on cannabis offers students insight to an otherwise unfamiliar industry. However its advantages may extend far past the classroom and all the way to the job market.

According to a report from Deloitte, the cannabis industry is projected to add at least 150,000 jobs in Canada over the next few years.

“Learning how to navigate the space from a purely business perspective will give students a leg up when attempting to enter and be successful in the cannabis space,” said Bryan Hendin, founder and president of Apollo Applied Research and Apollo Cannabis Clinics.

The Business of Cannabis, which launched this fall, offers students a look at the cannabis industry from a business perspective. The class covers everything from plant science, the history of cannabis, licensing regimes and approaches to growing, to more traditional streams such as laws and regulations, research and sales.

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Ryerson professor Brad Poulos said the course covers everything from plant science, the history of cannabis, licensing regimes and approaches to growing, to more traditional streams, such as laws and regulations, research and sales. (Holly Walker/Ryersonian)

“It’s subjects that would be of interest to somebody that either wants to start a cannabis business or wants to enter the cannabis industry through a functional job,” said Ryerson professor Brad Poulos, who teaches the course.

An advisory board comprised of industry leaders, such as Hendin, created the curriculum. Most advisers are vice-president level or higher in their respective organizations.

Entering the derivative market

Reports from Statistics Canada show more than 10 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 remain unemployed. The unemployment rate increased for people with a university degree this year.

As Canada enters into the more derivative oriented market, focusing on things such as edibles, beverages and other modalities, Poulous believes this is where students and recent graduates can find an abundance of job opportunities at the entry level.

“They’re there now, you can find them if you just go on Indeed,” said Poulos.

Anthony Volpe, a real estate agent and current student in the class is interested in moving into the cannabis space. “I was hoping the class would guide me in terms of what to move into,” said Volpe.

Cannabis jobs on the rise

A report by Brendan Bernard, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, shows cannabis-related job searches on Indeed began climbing in 2017, and spiked 50 per cent at the beginning of 2018.

The searches eventually jumped another 40 per cent in June following the October legalization announcement.

More than half of Canada’s cannabis-related job openings on Indeed were for jobs in Ontario, as the province is home to the headquarters of some of the industry’s main players.

Want ads range from typical positions in sales and retail, with job titles such as “budtenders” — think bartender, but for pot.  Other job postings are more specialized in the horticulture area, such as a cultivation technician or lead grower.

“The main roles in demand are for workers to grow the product and for others to sell it,” Bernard wrote.

Private Versus Public model

Under the Ontario PC party’s new plan, the sale of recreational cannabis will launch online, with sales at ‘brick and mortar’ stores set for April 1, 2019.

Other provinces such as Alberta are launching in retail spaces on Day 1. Many of these stores are currently looking for employees.

“We’re looking at about 100 plus stores in about a year to a year and a half,” said Harrison Newlands, head of business development for Fire & Flower, one of Canada’s leading independent adult-use cannabis retailers.

“That was the real reason I wanted to be involved,” said Newlands, who also acts as an adviser to the Business of Cannabis class.

With cannabis coming out in Canada and the recreational market opening up, Newlands saw the potential for Fire & Flower and Ryerson to be connected.

“It’s the fastest emerging market we’ve seen in Canada, within my lifetime for sure,” he added.

“Ryerson is taking the lead forward and really giving these students the elevated platform they need to be able to have these successful careers in these growing industries.”

The future of Cannabis

CIBC World Market analysts project the legal market for cannabis in Canada will have a retail value of approximately $6.8 billion by 2020.

As the industry expands, universities like Ryerson will play a vital role in the education and training for these new opportunities, not just in business but in the medical and agricultural fields as well.

“These are just a couple examples of how universities and colleges will play a vital role in educating and preparing the future workforce to thrive and adapt in this new industry,” said Hendin.  

Newlands notes that Canada is just the first mover in this space. Countries such as Europe, and the U.S., if it eventually comes online, will look to Canada in the future.

“They’re all going to be looking for the most highly qualified people to be able to fill those roles. Whether that be people that are already in the industry, or people coming out of school, I think the opportunities are endless moving forward,” said Newlands.

— With a file from Sabrina Gamrot

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