Training for cannabis jobs gets to heart of L&D ‘build or buy’ dilemma


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There is a slight misconception from outside the cannabis industry that pros should have an affinity for smoking weed in order to advance in the industry. From start-up executives to chief people officers at multi-state operators (MSOs), cannabis professionals told HR Dive that frequent use of THC or CBD products isn’t a concern for most recruiters in the industry. “We used to ask you if you were a consumer. We never ask that now,” said Scott Kenyon, CEO of cannabis staffing company Würk.

Additionally, the talent challenges in the field are very nuanced – and a heated debate has erupted on the intricacies of cannabis-related skill building. As of late for many HR departments, L&D has come to the fore. Employers, feeling the talent shortage, face the “build or buy” dilemma: Are you hiring for potential and prioritizing development, or are you waiting for the perfect candidate to cross your path?

As head of a human capital management company (HCM), Kenyon said that the industry’s largest MSOs invest in training and career development. “I think if companies aren’t investing in L&D right now, they’re a year or two behind,” he said. In his experience running an HCM platform, he has seen L&D spend increase by 300% over the past 12 months. “I expect this growth to continue over the next few years,” he said.

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The need for L&D is growing as the industry itself expands its roots. The 2022 job report from Leafly indicated a 33% year-over-year increase in cannabis job production. In the five years since the MSO has been tracking cannabis jobs, the industry has consistently added 27% or more to the list. “To put that in perspective, employment in business and finance occupations is projected to grow by just 8% over the decade,” said researchers in an accompanying press release.

Leafly, an MSO and thought leader in this space, counted 428,059 jobs created in 2021. These include budtenders, the retail workers and managers in pharmacies. Cannabis growers are needed; that’s how chemists are. Laboratories need technicians and managers. THC and CBD products need testers, need marketers, need packaging experts and supply chain support.

Brands will always need a COO and CFO – the last role to present itself its own payroll challenges. Legal counsel will help with this. And of course companies need HR – people teams – to fill vacancies with talent and to be the glue that makes everything work.

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Not only does cannabis use play no part in the recruitment process, cannabis knowledge is not the main trait every hiring manager looks for on their resume.

“You don’t need to know anything about cannabis,” confirmed Tyneeha Rivers, chief people officer of Curaleaf, a prominent MSO. Of course, when a potential employee is applying for a job as a geneticist or breeder, having a scientifically based knowledge of plants is an advantage. “But for the vast majority of our positions. It is not a requirement that you have cannabis experience.”

She stressed to HR Dive that most of the skills learned in other industries are transferrable. “It’s those core skills,” she adds, that lay the foundation for a strong candidate.

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In addition to being a team player, the ideal candidate must understand that Curaleaf is “growing fast,” she explained. “You have to be nimble and be able to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. That’s what we’re looking for.” In addition to the 21st year of life, the professional suitability – or at least the willingness to learn – must be fulfilled. AWith fresh blood flowing in, the debate about the future of L&D in cannabis will be reignited.

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“TIt’s a contentious issue in my own company,” Kenyon said. “Part of our orientation for new hires, regardless of their role, was, ‘Here is, you know, five hours of training on the wonderful plant.'” However, some professionals in the industry feel the industry has moved on beyond that Educating all staff about the botany of specific strains and the chemistry behind cannabinoids.

“‘The new accountant doesn’t need to know anything about terpenes and doesn’t need to know anything about sativa, indica and THC percentages.’ The industry builds on that. How could you not know that?” Kenyon said, explaining the conflict. In practice, cannabis L&D for Würk employees looks like traditional training and trips to US grow facilities and dispensaries



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