On Thursday morning, Marco Cacchione put on a black button-up shirt, combed his hair, and walked down Robson Street to a job fair, hoping to snag a gig in an industry that is quickly emerging from the underground.
After a decade as a line cook, currently at one of Vancouver’s casual fine-dining chains, the 28-year-old said he is ready to make the leap into cannabis, which is expected to be legalized next July. The industry will require thousands of workers to meet the likely demand.
Contact dermatitis causes irritation on Cacchione’s hands and makes it painful to work long shifts on the line, so when he heard from a friend about the job fair — presented by the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education — he wanted to see what it had to offer.
“I’m eager to learn about the industry,” Cacchione said. “I want to get involved in the industry. I have a passion for the industry and I’m slowly being forced out of my current industry.”
Deloitte has predicted that cannabis could someday be worth $22.6 billion a year in Canada. Cacchione believes much of this will be spent in restaurants, and so he plans to adapt his culinary skills and knowledge to cannabis. (Restaurants in U.S. states where cannabis is legal already offer it in food such as sushi, pizza and pastas.)
The federal government is delaying the legalization of edibles — users will only be able to buy dried cannabis, oils, seeds and plants next year — but will someday regulate the sale of cannabis in food form.
“It’s something that I think is going to take off pretty soon because a lot of people who use it don’t want to smoke it,” Cacchione said. “People enjoy ingesting it and how it feels in that form.”
Aurora Lybarger, 26, came to the fair with a plastic folder stuffed with resumes.
Lybarger said she likes her landscaping job, but dreads the thought of another lean winter spent hunting for part-time work. She briefly went on EI for the first time last year and vows to never do so again. She hopes to enter the cannabis industry in trimming, cultivation or sales.
“I just figure it’s booming. There’s huge opportunity right now and I might as well try and see what it’s like,” said Lybarger, who is from Surrey.
She met with recruiters from Cannabis At Work, Aurora Cannabis and several other firms looking to hire accountants, laboratory technicians, IT staff and dozens of other positions. Close to 300 people had pre-registered for the fair, according to organizers.
Lybarger said she has used cannabis for insomnia and skin irritation. She believes in its therapeutic use and has found that those in the industry have good attitudes and enjoy their work.
Her boyfriend, Conrad Lambertus, also 26, works in pest control and heard from recruiters that his skills are in demand at production facilities, where growers can lose valuable crops to aphids and mites.
David Purcell, director of emerging business for Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s two-year-old cannabis program, said that with predictions of 50,000 to 150,000 positions being created by legalization, the program must constantly tweak its curriculum and course offerings to satisfy evolving industry demand and government regulations.
With little known about how the federal government plans to handle production and how the province plans to handle distribution, students must be ready for whatever is to come, he said.
Kwantlen’s program offers four courses covering topics such as plant production, marketing, financing and plant science. Next year, it will train people to become cultivation technicians and retail consultants.
“The general public will soon realize that this industry is full of very well-educated, highly trained individuals,” Purcell said.