New Brunswick

Pot-growing classes start next month at Dieppe community college

Starting in November, community college students in Dieppe can begin training as medical cannabis cultivation technicians.

Province pays $70,000 to cover tuition for first students in cannabis cultivation technician program

Roger Melanson, the minister responsible for post-secondary education, says the province will cover tuition for the first group of students in the cannabis cultivation technician program. (CBC)

Community college students in Dieppe can begin training as medical cannabis cultivation technicians starting Nov. 27.

The provincial Liberal government, which last year flagged the cannabis industry as part of its economic growth plan, announced Monday it will pay $70,000 to cover the full tuition — which is at $2,800 for the 12-week course — for the starting group of 25 students.

The classes will be given in English and only at the Dieppe campus.

The program, which was hinted at a year ago, is the first of its kind in Canada, according to Michel Doucet, the executive director of continuing education for the community college.

"It's a science-based program," Doucet said. "Horticulture-based — so vegetation, plant care, control, environment, the watering, the elements that are required for successful growth."

Organigram, one of two licensed medical marijuana growers in New Brunswick, helped develop the curriculum after being approached by the community college, said Greg Engel, CEO of Organigram.

"They felt they could get funding from the province for an initial program. So we've collaborated in that manner and we think it's a great way to tee up potential employees for the company."

The Moncton company is planning to more than double its staff — from 110 employees to about 250 — over the next few months, Engel said. It's hoping to hire many of the graduate technicians.

"The responsibility of the provincial government is to make sure we have qualified labour force," said Roger Melanson, post-secondary education minister, explaining the province's decision to fund program when it gets underway. 

"We haven't made a decision beyond that point, because we want to make sure this is done responsibly and right," said Melanson.

Classes will be offered to a second group of students in early 2018. 

Doucet said he expects there to be a lot of interest from potential students. 

When it comes to qualifications, the college said it's looking for candidates with no criminal record, a passion for the industry and horticulture.