Q&A: One of Canada’s cannabis university programs seeing growth

Brad Mahon from MRU (Contributed photo)

By Sheldon Smith

With the Canadian cannabis industry rapidly changing and evolving, there is a high demand for educated and trained individuals to help grow and cultivate the crops.

The Faculty of Continuing Education at Mount Royal University has partnered with the continuing and professional studies division of B.C.’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University to offer a Cannabis Education Program.

Canadian Evergreen spoke to two members of the program, Brad Mahon, Dean, Faculty of Continuing Education, and Michael Chyczij, Instructor, Cannabis Education Program in a Q&A interview.

Chyczij has been an instructor at MRU for one year in the Cannabis Education Program. In addition, he is the master grower for Allegro Cannabis and head breeder for Wormhole Genetics, as well as CEO for Green Grow Consulting.

Q: What is the Cannabis Education Program and how old is it? How has the program changed and evolved since its beginning?

A: Michael Chyczig (MC) – The program provides foundational knowledge and current concepts derived from real world experience in the cannabis industry, in order to ensure students experience a seamless transition into a highly regulated environment.

Brad Mahon (BM) – The Cannabis Education Program focuses on providing students with knowledge and competencies to enter the cannabis industry workforce. Our program is in its third year. The program has evolved naturally and necessarily. As MRU began to find its own way, we struck up our own cannabis industry advisory committee — a group of the sector’s leading professionals.

Q: What is the ideal student for the program? Who wouldn’t be suitable?

A: MC – Due to the fact this is an emerging industry, there are several different types of ideal students for this program. Cannabis enthusiasts who are looking to transition from illicit to legal operations are obvious candidates. Previous experience in marketing, packaging, laboratory analysis, agriculture, etc., can seamlessly transition into the cannabis Industry.

Q: Could you please explain the three respective courses taught, and their unique offerings?

A: MC – Commercial Cannabis Production familiarizes students with various aspects of cannabis cultivation, and provides knowledge and skills to succeed in a regulated licensed cannabis facility including SOPs, GPP, seed and clone selection, crop cycling, media, fertigation and irrigation, environmental controls, integrated pest management, harvest and post-harvest activities.

Cannabis Marketing in the Retail Sector takes a dive into the legal framework and creative strategies for compliant promotions. Focusing on brand development, marketing, content development, advertising, promotions and events, this course explores cannabis retail marketing practices in real-life settings.

Quality Assurance in the Cannabis Industry prepares Students by introducing them to QA, quality control, and quality management systems, in addition to regulatory requirements relating to QA, while developing capacity in problem solving, SOPs, QA data analysis, records management, and quality management systems.

Q: How does MRU prepare students for work in the cannabis industry?

A: MC – The cannabis industry in its current state is highly regulated. As such, regulatory compliance and creativity in combination with attention to detail are crucial for success. Entities are realizing in order to remain competitive in this industry, one of the most significant competitive advantages is a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

A: BM – We ensure our students are job-ready by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of the MRU cannabis industry advisory committee — established leaders working inside the cannabis sector.

Q: What kind of jobs are available when out of school?

A: MC – The courses in the Cannabis Education Program are designed to ensure students gain footing in any established legal cannabis company. In terms of advanced employment opportunities, upward mobility in this industry is a direct function of the scope and scale of any prospective employer, in combination with the knowledge acquired and personal drive of the student.

Q: How does the program keep up to date with an ever-changing cannabis landscape?

A: MC – Since the cannabis industry is so nascent, changes are occurring at a rapid pace relative to other established industries. The diverse broad set of members on the advisory committee at MRU ensures students are exposed to the most up-to-date practices and regulations by actively redesigning course material.

A: BM –The advisory committee is a huge asset — their knowledge is critical. We recognize and respect this is a continually shifting sector. Our strategy is to be aware — to watch for the signs of change and respond.

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