The coronavirus pandemic has left the state of education in a tailspin. As the fall semester begins across universities and colleges nationwide, educators are working out the logistics of in-person versus online classes or a mixture of both. While it would appear that the uncertainty of going back to class might swallow most of the attention, the staff at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts has been working to launch a new curriculum for the start of the upcoming semester.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, HCC continues to be innovative in creating new courses and programs that will set students up to either immediately enter the workforce or prepare them for transfer to four-year schools,” said Rachel Rubinstein, HCC vice president of Academic and Student Affairs.
Winemaking, beer and cider brewing and cannabis cultivation will be offered to students as one-year, 24-credit certificate programs as part of the Sustainability Studies department. HCC worked with the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) to develop the programs.
“We will be training students in customer service, cultivation, dosing, cooking, and extraction methods and techniques, but when it is time for students to work with actual product, that will take place offsite through our partner C3RN and local, legal operating dispensaries and cannabis and hemp companies,” Jeff Hayden, HCC vice president of Business and Community Services. “As the education partner, we want to ensure that local residents and students have access to opportunities – including those in emerging industries such as cannabis and hemp – that lead to jobs.”
Cannabis Today, one of the courses in the cannabis program, studies the growth and state of the industry. Classes in agriculture, marketing and entrepreneurship are also required.
The partnership between HCC and C3RN was approved by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission as a Social Equity Vendor. According to HCC, the goal is to prepare workers for jobs in a growing and newly legal industry, in particular those in areas of high poverty and unemployment.
In fall 2019, HCC launched its Cannabis Culinary Assistant program at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. Covering industry background, Massachusetts laws and regulations and professional skills, the culinary program is a 96-hour skill-based training program.
Other areas of the cannabis workforce focused on at HCC include: Dispensary Patient Advocate/“Bud Tender”, Extraction Technician Assistant and Cannabis Culinary Assistant & Infusion Specialist.
HCC is also offering students the flexible option of choosing between two late-start schedules, with one beginning on September 28 and the other starting on October 16.
“We are utilizing best practices in adult workforce learning, entrepreneurship, and innovation to create training programs that are collaborative with industry partners and meet the needs of the industry and the learner,” said Marion McNabb, chief executive officer of C3RN.