Holyoke Community College to offer cannabis industry training programs

  • Holyoke Community College  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  •  Marion McNabb, chief executive officer of the Worcester-based Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, speaks at a forum on Monday, Oct. 21, where Holyoke Community College formally announced the launching of its Cannabis Education Center. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/HOLYOKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

  • Kate Phillips, director of education for the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, speaks at a forum Monday where Holyoke Community College announced its Cannabis Education Center. HOLYOKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/24/2019 8:46:39 AM

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College will launch the state’s first Cannabis Education Center to train students for careers in the state’s emerging marijuana industry.

The center will be managed out of college’s Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development and will offer certificate training courses for four different roles: patient advocate and bud tender, cannabis cultivation assistant, cannabis extraction technician assistant, and cannabis culinary assistant. The center is being created in partnership with the Worcester-based Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN).

With legal cannabis “being new to the Massachusetts industry, there’s a need for people who have specific skills training to be ready for these particular jobs,” said Jeff Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services at HCC. “Our effort is really focused on that workforce development piece.”

Hayden expects the center will train around 100 individuals within its first year, with classes composed of about 20 students each, and expand in future years.

Students will split their time between classroom learning and hands-on internship experience, Hayden said, totaling 96 hours of training. The center is currently finalizing which companies it will work with for the internships.

More information on registration will be available on Oct. 28, and cannabis culinary assistant classes will begin in January. Training for other roles will be held in the following months. All courses are offered as six sessions held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The center will also offer training in the Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Vendor Training program. The initiative is one of many programs “developed in response to evidence which demonstrates that certain geographic areas and demographic populations, particularly Black and Latinx, have been disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration for cannabis and other drug crimes as a result of state and federal drug policy,” according to the center.

It was HCC and C3RN’s inclusion in this program that spurred the idea of the Cannabis Education Center, Hayden said, noting that the training can offer a particularly valuable resource to unemployed or underemployed communities.

“This is an exciting effort that encompasses not only public education and social equity training,” Hayden said, “but the chance to allow people who haven’t had access to workforce and job opportunities to have a new set of skills that will help them be able to get employment and become productive workers at these new Massachusetts businesses.”

Costs to enroll are still being solidified, Hayden said. The center’s ultimate goal is to offer the training for free, but he is not yet sure whether this will be possible.

The center will soon publish scholarship information on its website.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.
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