When it became clear that recreational marijuana was going to be legal in the not so distant future, the staff in charge of programming at Okanagan College had their interest piqued.
But when local business owners started to approach the school and ask whether they would offer courses on the commercial cultivation side, it became clear it was something they’d have to move on.
“We had meetings through early fall with people who had licences to produce through the Health Canada regime or who had applications underway,” said Dennis Silvestrone, director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College.
“Then early in the new year we formed an advisory committee that was with licensed producers from across the Okanagan and a couple companies working on the lab side… then we had a variety of folks come together around programming and discuss what programming would relevant to get on stream.”
What they concluded is that policy change would create workforce demand and broader community demand,” said Dennis Silvestrone, director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College.
Silvestrone helped come up with the courses that would be offered. At first, they were more practical and addressed the business side of things. The first cannabis course at the college, for example, was pest management, which has a commercial application.
A grow-your-own course has also been offered and it links to legislation about growing.
An investing-in-cannabis class was also offered.
“That was all for the fall term, but then as you look into the winter were have more courses added, including commercial cultivation for people who want to come into the industry at an entry level,” he said.
The sky is basically the limit at this point.
“I’ve worked in higher education for 25 years… and changes in government legislation will trigger changes, so this is not without precedent.
But I’ve never seen anything on this scale,” he said. “No subject area I’ve been involved in has this level of interest, not from media and the general public… It has so many facets and they’re all emerging at the same time, from an educational perspective it’s an exciting time to explore the workplace to the social place we all occupy.”
And you don’t have to take Silvestrone’s word for it.
When fall courses went up online mid summer and the 20 sections around marijuana were listed, they filled up right away.
“So we opened extra sections of courses this fall,” he said. “We put up an interest list for winter courses with commercial cultivation … Last I checked we had 160 names on that list.”
These courses are aimed at getting everyone on the same page so they can assist the local economy.
“For colleges like OC, it’s about serving local needs, be it the general public or companies … that’s the lens we’ve looked at this through … we’ve been trying to see what’s needed for the Okanagan and Shuswap and how can we program for that,” he said.