Rowan takes first hit on state cannabis grants

NJ Department of Labor grants Rowan University a $325,000 grant towards a cannabis apprenticeship. - Graphic / Julia Quennessen

Students aspiring to roll into the cannabis industry in the Garden State will be given the opportunity to pursue a higher living due in part to state grants and joint partnerships. 

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Development (NJDOL) has committed $325,000 in grants towards an apprenticeship program, in partnership with Rowan University and others, committed to molding the future employees of the cannabis industry.

As a part of the grant, Rowan University will be responsible for developing the retail program’s education and training curriculum. The university is also working with Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) to create apprenticeships in cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution.    

NJDOL, Rowan University and RCSJ, in addition to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 360, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, the Gloucester County Workforce Development Board and Loud Wellness, Inc. of Glassboro are all partners in this joint venture — launching one of the first programs of its kind in the country. 

 “As a part of the apprenticeship program we provide the educational programs. When I say provide the educational programs, we will go through the processes and procedures with regards to policies as it relates to industry, what are some of the medical standards, how to do customer service, what it’s like working in a distribution center, how the product is produced, what are some of the scientific methods to how they create the product, that is the part of the grant we will work with,” said Terrence Hardee, director of strategic planning and management. 

The grant will allow not only for local cannabis retail companies to enroll their employees in the program, but anyone interested in a cannabis retail career can attend RCSJ where they will pre-qualify potential employees along with providing courses that fit the person’s strengths.   

During the apprenticeship program, local retail companies will contact RCSJ about potential employers and to complete the program you must do 144 hours of classroom instruction and 200 hours of on-the-job training. Those who meet these guidelines will be granted a certificate. 

After completion, those who wish to obtain a higher level of education will have a growing number of specific, cannabis industry educational opportunities at Rowan University. 

“Those who get certificates, then look at other programs like, ‘Oh maybe I’ll go for an associates degree in this area, or maybe a bachelor’s degree in this area.’ And for instance, right now we have an M.B.A. program in our college of business with a specialization in cannabis. We already have a master’s degree, so Rowan University will fully develop educational options for those entering a career in cannabis,” said Joe Cardona, the vice president for university relations and university spokesperson.   

With marijuana being legalized in Feb. of 2021, the industry side has rapidly taken off. This places well-trained employees at the top of the list for potential employers looking for skilled cannabis workers. 

“Training for employees is really important…. This is a starting point to give people the type of training that not only puts them in a really good position for their first job but for longer-term career purposes as well,” said Jennifer Maden, the assistant dean and director of graduate studies for the Rohrer College of Business at Rowan University. 

While the curriculum is still being developed by the university, some expect it to be completed by summertime, giving those interested a chance to explore the possibilities of the program.   

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