Marijuana companies in Illinois are on the prowl for new employees, but experience growing weed in the basement likely won’t fly on a resume.
The bar for entry-level positions is moving higher as marijuana companies grow so fast it is no longer practical to train workers new to the industry. Growers and dispensaries increasingly want employees with academic training. The result: More colleges are starting to offer, for lack of a better term, a degree in growing marijuana.
“You’re going to need somebody who’s got some knowledge (that can) then adapt that to the facility,” said Paul Chialdikas, vice president of sales and marketing at Bedford Grow, which has a cultivation facility in Bedford Park. “Timing is going to be critical for us to grab an employee that has experience. ... We need them now.”
Most employees that have entered Illinois’ young marijuana industry did so either with experience earned in the black market or in states with more mature cannabis programs, like Colorado or California. Often, they have not worked with the plant at all.
Schools around the country are rolling out cannabis courses or degree programs. Northern Michigan University launched a four-year medicinal plant chemistry degree in the fall of 2017. That first semester, 20 students participated. Enrollment was up to 220 a year later. The University of California at Davis started offering a class on how cannabis compounds affect the human body last fall. Marijuana law classes are becoming more common, too, with courses at schools in Colorado, Ohio and Chicago.