Niagara College launches first cannabis production graduate program in Canada

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With just a little over a month before cannabis becomes legal across Canada, the industry is in need of skilled and educated employees able to take on the roles in such a quick-paced, evolving industry. This is why the excitement was so high when Niagara College officially launched their Commercial Cannabis Production Graduate Certificate Program earlier this week.

Niagara College’s Commercial Cannabis Production (CCP) program is the first postsecondary credential of its kind in Canada and has been designed closely with industry leading experts, ensuring that students in the program can secure meaningful careers in the country’s next big job market.

Classes will take place at Niagara College’s, Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, in the heart of Niagara’s wine country. The College has already had success as a leading educator in wine production and brewery operation with a 38-acre vineyard and 3-acre hop yard. It’s expected that the College will bring the same industry-leading, hands-on education to the cannabis industry.   

“The success of our economy locally, provincially and beyond depends on our ability to develop a highly skilled workforce to drive the growth of existing and emerging industries – and that’s where colleges play a crucial role,” said Dan Patterson, President of Niagara College. “The emerging cannabis sector is a perfect example of that and our program – Canada’s first graduate credential in cannabis production – shows how Niagara College anticipates and responds to need and trends in industry.”

Photo from left to right: Commercial Cannabis Production program coordinator and professor Bill MacDonald, Ruth Chun, General Counsel for Newstrike, Vivian Kinnaird, Niagara College’s Dean of Business, Hospitality and Environment, St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle, Niagara College President Dan Patterson, Jeff Ryan, Vice-President of Government and Stakeholder Relations for Canopy Growth Corp. and John F. T. Scott, Chair of Niagara College’s Board of Governors, celebrate the start of class in Niagara College’s Commercial Cannabis Production (Graduate Certificate) program, Canada’s first post-secondary credential in the production of cannabis.

The program is open to applicants who already possess a diploma or degree in horticulture, greenhouse technology, agricultural sciences, plant sciences, biology or other related discipline. Twenty-four students were accepted into the first cohort out of more than 300 applicants.

The program has drawn attention and applicants from all over the country, including Jon Skilnyk, who was employed as the CAO of Dawson City, Yukon, prior to applying to the CCP program at Niagara College.

“I wanted to shift gears from a traditional office environment and gain some practical, hands-on skills to complement my educational background and work experience,” said Skilnyk. “It’s exciting to be a part of the first class of such a unique program. I look forward to the opportunity to learn, hands-on in the production of cannabis but also learn about the evolving regulatory environment and the unique business aspect of the industry.”

The first cohort of students in Niagara College's Commercial Cannabis Production Graduate Certificate celebrate the program's launch.

The program will create a pipeline of qualified employees to businesses across the country but especially for licensed producers with locations in the Niagara Region such as CannTrust and Canopy Growth, who have provided close consultation to the College as the program was developed.

“We’re proud to partner with a progressive institution like Niagara College to educate the next wave of industry experts,” said Jeff Ryan, VP of Government and Stakeholder Relations at Canopy Growth. “As the industry grows, it’s important that we hire employees with cannabis-specific knowledge. By partnering with Niagara College, we will be education the next generation of experts while giving them a head start in a very competitive market through new development and career opportunities.”

The partnership the College has made with the licensed producers has created opportunities for scholarships, financial support, internships and work placements.

Students will leave the program equipped to take on all tasks associated with commercial production from designing and implementing plant nutrition that complies with regulatory requirements to understanding security protocols specific to the industry.

For more information about the Commercial Cannabis Production Graduate Certificate Program, visit

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