‘High’ school classes offered at Okanagan College

FILE PHOTO - Marijuana plants are pictured during a tour of Tweed Inc. in Smiths Falls, Ont. on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
FILE PHOTO - Marijuana plants are pictured during a tour of Tweed Inc. in Smiths Falls, Ont. on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OKANAGAN - Cannabis is legitmately coming to the classroom for the first time in the Okanagan and Shuswap.

Okanagan College has introduced five new courses this semester all focused on cannabis and the cannabis industry, and is set to launch two more come January 2019. The courses available at several Okanagan College campuses range from investing in cannabis on the stock market to growing your own plants.

The courses won't lead to a certificate but are offered as part of the college's continuing studies program largely held for a few hours in the evening.

Okanagan College director of continuing studies and corporate training Dennis Silvestrone said interest in the courses has been very strong and some of the classes are already full and have waitlists.

Currently the college is offering classes in investing and trading in cannabis stock, Cannabis Business Fundamentals, Cannabis and the Workplace, growing your own, and pest management. Classes on plant production and facility practices and cannabis retail sales are due to start January 2019.

While Silvestrone says while there is a large demand for the courses because the industry is so new, its been a challenge to find people qualified to teach the courses as the college competes with the cannabis industry and other educational facilities over a small pool of experts.

The classes have also seen a cross-section of society enrol.

"People who see it as a potential area for employment through to folks who are just curious and want to find out a little bit more," Silvestrone says.

Silvestrone said as a small community college they try to offer courses that respond and are relevant to what's taking place both recreationally and professionally in the region. He sees cannabis education classes increasing over the upcoming years.

"I think there's a strong possibility the horticultural (cannabis course) could become a certificate and potentially the retail sales as well," Silvestrone says.

Founder of licensed marijuana production facility PhyeinMed, Debra Senger, says every week three or four resumes are dropped off at the company's new Falkland facility.

Senger says it hasn't been a problem finding employees yet and generally her staff would be qualified in plant science and horticultural.

She says 2,700 people in the province have been licenced to grow cannabis under the old legislation and the province had a wealth of highly skilled people. Senger says it would be good to see cannabis courses mature in the future and hoped to see science-based classes being offered.

What other cannabis classes the college will offer in the future remains to be seen but Silvestrone points to a long cannabis supply chain that is set to emerge with legalization; from seed to market, to food and drink, to tourism.

"Right now we have wine tourism... it certainly seems quite conceivable that you could have something similar that emerges around cannabis," he says.

For more information on the courses and tuition go here.

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