As forestry jobs plummet in B.C., cannabis is just ramping up

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KELOWNA - While Tolko’s lumber mill has been indefinitely closed in Kelowna and cutbacks are being made in numerous communities throughout the province, another industry is looking to fill that gap.

Employment in the Canadian cannabis industry has more than tripled since the plant was legalized last fall. By April of this year, there were 9,200 jobs in cannabis across the country, with about 20 per cent of those being in B.C., according to a report by StatsCan.

And, if Cannabis grower Flowr is any example, the pace of growth is accelerating. It's looking to hire close to 100 permanent and temporary staff over the next few weeks, adding to the 200 already working at its Lake Country operations.

That will make them a bigger employer than Tolko was earlier this year before the layoffs in Kelowna.

“We have a number of production leads and management roles, not necessarily for people who have a cannabis background but have some experience leading people, some experience in manufacturing,” Ashley Thomson, Chief People Officer for Flowr told “With changes going on in other industries, this could be a good crossover for them to come in and take on some leadership, supervisory or tech positions with us.”

StatsCan says about 60 per cent of the cannabis employees worked on cultivation, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and administration with 20% working in packaging, marketing, sales and shipping.

Those 9,200 jobs were before many cannabis shops were opened in Canada and before companies like Flowr ramped up for the fall harvest.

By contrast, National Resources Canada reported more than 200,000 people worked in the foresty sector in 2017 - again before the massive layoffs and reductions hit that industry this year.

And, with the Okanagan being a key cannabis growing and manufacturing area, Okanagan College is offering a number or cannabis related courses, ranging from Growing Your Own Cannabis and Pest Management for Cannabis Production to Cannabis Business Fundamentals and Cannabis Botany and Plant Science.

At Flowr, the first outdoor harvest is coming up so there’s a need for about 40 temporary full-time workers to help with that through the end of November.

But there’s also about 30 salaried professional positions doing things like production scheduling, accounting or supervision of staff.

Another 25 hourly-paid permanent production workers, custodians, technicians and other workers are needed.

That makes up a total of about 95 jobs or, as Thomson calls them: roles.

The fall harvest is on a 150,000 square foot outdoor plot. There are another 42 greenhouses that produce cannabis that is harvested at different times of the year.

As this is a new industry, there’s lots of room for workers to move up the career ladder, Thomson said. She can see some of the out-of-work Tolko workers being interested in the permanent positions while the temporary jobs may suit people moving between picking fruit and working at local ski hills.

Anyone interested in the permanent positions can check out postings on the Flowr web site or email Temporary recruitment is being handled by Platinum Recruiting.

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