Nova Scotia

New program to train Indigenous Nova Scotians for cannabis careers

The Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre is partnering with one of the province's first licensed pot producers as it prepares to grow from 25 employees to more than 80 in the next year.

The Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre forges link with production company

Khurram Malik, CEO of Biome Grow Inc., and Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre, signed the MOU on Thursday. (Submitted by The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre)

The Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax is partnering with one of the province's first licensed pot producers as it prepares to grow from 25 employees to more than 80 in the next year.

The centre signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with Biome Grow Inc., which owns Highland Grow in Antigonish County, to provide three years of specialized training for Indigenous Nova Scotians interested in careers in cannabis. 

They will learn everything from how to handle the plants to watering, trimming and packing them. Training could start this spring and will take place at a production facility in Ohio, N.S., and at the Halifax centre, according to Khurram Malik, the company's founder and CEO.

"It allows us to go to one place to basically source a very deep enthusiastic talent pool of people that want careers in this business. So every time there's an opening, I don't have to go to 20 different places to look," he told CBC's Information Morning. 

Glode-Desrochers said she sees a great deal of potential in pot. (Submitted by The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre)

Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre, said she sees a great deal of potential in pot.

She was enticed not only by the number of jobs, but the opportunity to develop an Indigenous-focused training program from the ground up. 

"So quite often what happens is we're brought in at the end. Something's already developed for community and then it's like here you go, make it work," Glode-Desrochers said.

Training could begin as early as this spring, said Malik. (Submitted by The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre)

She said introducing Indigenous communities to the industry will ensure people don't have to move away for work.

"If people can be informed, look at the potential here, understand the growth, understand what's out there they can make their own decision," she said.

"And the reality is, if it's a good fit, they're going to stay within their community and I think that's a huge, huge benefit."

Weed VR

Highland Grow received its licence to sell marijuana from Health Canada in December, and now supplies four strains of cannabis to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. It has a 6,500 square-foot production facility with plans to expand on eight hectares of land.

Last year, the company announced a similar partnership with St. Francis Xavier University that gave students on-the-job training at the facility. 

Malik said the company recently hired three new quality assurance positions, and still needs people in nearly every position, from growers to packers and administration. The hope is to hire at least 20 more people in the next few months, he said.

Highland Grow is based in Ohio, N.S., and owned by Biome Grow Inc., which also has facilities in Newfoundland, P.E.I. and Ontario. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Training will include working with a new tool that Biome calls "Weed VR." The virtual reality technology gives employees the chance to feel like they're handling the product.

"It's just good business sense and the human brain just retains visual learning better than sitting in a classroom or just reading off a page," said Malik. 

Glode-Desrochers said she'll be working with Indigenous employment officers from across the province to get the word out about the training opportunity. 

"We really want to give as many people the opportunity to see this and understand it," she said.

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With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning