COD program designed to educate, train students to work in cannabis industry

Students in the College of DuPage Cannabis/Industrial Hemp Cultivation and Operations program will receive hands-on experience as the Horticulture program collaborates with Kerry Farms in Winfield, a cannabis and hemp farm.

Responding to the needs of the regional workforce, College of DuPage recently developed a new Cannabis/Industrial Hemp Cultivation and Operations Certificate designed to educate and train students, bridging the skills gaps prevalent in the growing cannabis industry.

Launching in spring of 2024, the 37-hour certificate program is tailored to equip students for entry-level and mid-level positions within the cannabis and hemp industry while also providing students an in-depth exploration of hemp plant morphology and physiology, cannabis cultivation and commerce regulations.

“The cannabis and hemp industries have seen substantial growth in the last five years, providing job seekers with lucrative opportunities in not only cultivation, retail and extraction but in related fields such as accounting, marketing and sales,” said COD Associate Horticulture Professor Brian Clement.

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2025, the legal marijuana industry will support up to 1.75 million jobs in the United States, a more than fourfold increase making it one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States.

“This certificate program really shows what community colleges are all about—creating programs that match what the workforce and industries need,” Clement said.

Students progressing through the certification coursework will receive hands-on experience as the Horticulture program collaborates with Kerry Farms in Winfield, a cannabis and hemp farm led by Dr. Joseph Sheehan, a medical doctor and current adjunct professor of cannabis cultivation and plant science at Saint Louis University.

In addition, students will have the opportunity to intern at various facilities in Illinois including Helios Lab, Chicago Aquaponics and Cresco Labs.

The COD Horticulture Program meets the needs of students entering the horticulture industry as well as those presently employed who wish to continue their professional growth. Besides providing horticultural knowledge and skills, the program emphasizes the business and management proficiency necessary to compete successfully in the horticulture industry.

Students can earn an Associate in Applied Science degrees in Horticulture, Landscape Contracting and Management and Sustainable Urban Agriculture.

In addition to the newly launched Cannabis/Industrial Hemp Cultivation and Operations Certificate, the Horticulture program offers 10 specialized certificates designed to address the diverse nature of the horticulture industry and offer a sound foundation to students who wish to create their own small businesses. Students can choose from a wide variety of electives to customize their education and specialize in their areas of interest.