A cannabis-focused curriculum has been making its way into post-secondary institutions across Canada in the wake of the October 17 country-wide legalization. Course topics vary from applied sciences to legal and agriculture.

The Nav interviewed Glynis Steen, Dean of Trades and Applied Technology at VIU about some of the cannabis educational opportunities. VIU’s nine-month-long Horticultural Technician Foundation program is designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of horticulture principles and practices. Skills learned include plant propagation techniques, greenhouse production, nursery crop production, and pest and disease management.

“The skills students learn in our program are highly sought after by cannabis producers, and some of our graduates go on to work in the cannabis industry,” Steen said.

Farms like Canopy Growth in Smith Falls, Ontario, and rapidly expanding cannabis producer Tilray in Nanaimo, BC, will provide opportunities for students to enter a quickly growing industry that seem endless. Legalization will also open the way for exploration in the cultivation of cannabis. With over 700 known pot strains, and environment variables largely shaping the growth of the plant, knowledge of optimal techniques will be in high demand. Students in the Horticultural Technician Foundation program study and practice crop planning for a diversity of plant types, managing greenhouse growing conditions for optimal growth, and techniques like pruning to initiate desired growth patterns.

“Our faculty members are investing best practices for growing to see if there is anything further that we should incorporate in the program,” Steen said. “For example, we have had a local cannabis industry consultant come to our propagation classes to discuss materials and techniques, and we take students on field trips to learn about the industrial activities, products, and opportunities.”

Time will tell what the demands of the market will ask of producers, and what producers will need from those entering the field. That includes what opportunities VIU will be able to give future students.

“We are not licensed to grow cannabis or hemp at this time, but hope to add cannabis-specific cultivation practices to the curriculum in the near future,” Steen said.