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CCRI launches its first Cannabis Training Program to meet workforce demands in fast-growing industry

CCRI launches its first Cannabis Training Program to meet workforce demands in fast-growing industry

With jobs in the cannabis industry nearly doubling in Rhode Island between 2022 and 2023, the Community College of Rhode Island is launching its eight-week Cannabis Training Program through the Division of Workforce Partnerships.

This free 45-hour training program, funded by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training’s Real Jobs RI initiative, begins Tuesday, July 9 at CCRI’s Liston Campus in Providence. Classes are conducted online and in person with curriculum taught by industry experts to provide students with a foundational knowledge of the entry-level jobs in the industry, the skills they need, and the applicable regulations. Participants can also visit local businesses and receive employment assistance. 

The pilot cohort program will enroll fifteen students. Those interested can sign up for an interview by filling out the program inquiry form at The flexibility of the course scheduling and free tuition ensures the program is “equitable and accessible to those from communities that have been impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” according to CCRI Director of Industry Partnerships Stacy Sullivan. 

“CCRI’s Division of Workforce Partnerships is always looking to be responsive to employer needs and we are proud and excited to create a training for this emerging industry,” said Division of Workforce Partnerships Vice President Jennie Johnson. “We look forward to having a hand in creating a robust cannabis workforce.”

With more community colleges and four-year institutions offering cannabis certificates in addition to entrepreneurship, product development and manufacturing programs, the timing is perfect for CCRI to enter the fast-growing cannabis workforce industry. The United States’ cannabis labor market has grown exponentially each year since 2017; the number of cannabis jobs increased from 321,000 in 2021 to 428,059 in 2022 and since adult-use recreational cannabis was legalized in Rhode Island in 2022, the number of available cannabis jobs in the state increased by 45 percent to 1,649 in 2023.

In addition, there are now 118 jobs in Rhode Island that list “familiarity with the cannabis industry” as a required skill with more than 100 cannabis-adjacent businesses, including cannabidiol (CBD) retailers, and 62 licensed cannabis cultivators currently in the market. By next year, cannabis is projected to become a $45 billion industry in the United States.

The industry is divided into three main categories: cultivation, which is growing the plants; processing and production, which includes developing products such as CBD gummies and other consumables; and retail, specifically working with customers to understand their needs and recommend an appropriate product. Founder and CEO of EZHire Cannabis Jacob Carlson and Certified Commercial Cannabis Expert Melissa Rutherford were instrumental in developing the curriculum and will teach courses in the programs pilot cohort.

“Having the ability to learn job skills in a new industry is important and having CCRI embrace cannabis education is a boon to Rhode Island residents interested in determining if this emerging marketplace is right for them,” Rutherford said. “The class will introduce students to the legal cannabis industry and discuss how skills as varied as culinary, customer service, and risk management can all be applied in this growing field.”

“The question of how people are supposed to learn skills about jobs that didn’t exist legally in a highly-regulated industry always puzzled me. How are legal cannabis businesses supposed to find trained employees? That’s why this partnership with CCRI makes sense for us at EzHire Cannabis,” Carlson said. “We are seeing more need for entry-level workers, which aligns well with community college programs, both from a cost and training level.”

Other industry partners teaming with CCRI in its Cannabis Training Program include: Ocean State Controlled Botanicals, Mother Earth Wellness, Sweetspot Farms, Emerald Leaf Organics, Coast Cannabis, Solar Cannabis Co., Good Feel, and Contempo Speciality Packaging.

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