ncTakeOff panel discussion explores cannabis industry in Niagara.

A rapidly expanding cannabis industry is set to bring positive changes to Niagara’s economic and educational landscapes.

That was the focus of a panel discussion at Niagara College in a packed Yerich Auditorium Thursday evening. The event, hosted by ncTakeOff, the college’s entrepreneurship hub, featured a lively discussion on the future of the cannabis industry in Niagara, and how government, education and business can work together to position Niagara for success.

Panellists included Members of Parliament Chris Bittle and Vance Badawey, Jennifer Maccarone, Chief Quality Officer at Up Cannabis, Blake Landry of Niagara Economic Development, and Bill MacDonald, Coordinator of NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production program.

Tonight’s panel discussion is another important step in our communities discussion about how Cannabis legalization will impact Niagara, and Canada as a whole,” said Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines. “The legalization process will provide opportunities but it will also provide challenges to the status quo. This is why it’s important that we continue to have community conversations like this to ensure we are best positioned to succeed economically, while also ensuring that public health goals are met in a meaningful way.”

The discussion also touched on the role Niagara College can play in helping support and meet growing demands from businesses, both local and across Canada, for qualified, knowledgeable job candidates to work in the industry.

Niagara College is a leader in developing innovative applied learning models to meet evolving industry needs. In September 2018, the College will launch its Commercial Cannabis Production (CCP) Post-Graduate Certificate program – Canada’s first post-secondary credential in the production of commercial cannabis.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from our partners in the commercial cannabis industry that there’s a current and future need for workers who are skilled in the practices and procedures of working in a licensed producer, as well as navigating Canada’s stringent regulatory framework,” said Bill MacDonald, Professor in the School of Environment and Horticulture at Niagara College. “We developed the Commercial Cannabis Production program to respond to that demand, and our industry partners were critical in helping us design the program to ensure graduates will possess the skills both they, and the industry, need to succeed.”

“Up Cannabis is excited to be a part of the Niagara community, and we look forward to being a leading employer in the region, both now and in the years to come,” said Jennifer Maccarone, Chief Quality Officer at Up Cannabis. “We appreciate the great amount of support we’ve received from Niagara College, the Township of Lincoln and its officials—all who have welcomed us from the start. Our industry and our company are poised for great strides, and we’re intent on taking them with the utmost care and responsibility, with our community stakeholders foremost in mind.”

MacDonald also touched on not only the high level of interest the CCP program has generated, but also the skilled backgrounds and qualifications of applicants to the program.

“We’ve been very impressed by the response to the program – not only in the volume of applications, but also in their quality. We’re receiving applications from many qualified industry professionals, who bring with them a wealth of experience, and who are looking to enhance their skills and help move this new market forward.”

The panel discussion is the first in a series of events planned by ncTakeoff to explore the future of the cannabis industry in Niagara. Watch in the coming months for future events.

NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production Post-Graduate Certificate program is the first of its kind in Canada, and will prepare graduates for successful careers within the regulatory framework of Canada’s rapidly expanding commercial cannabis industry. Graduates will be trained in the operational procedures of Licensed Producers (LPs) including Best Management Practices (BMP) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

ncTakeoff is Niagara College’s hub for entrepreneurship, hosting entrepreneurial development programs and enabling access to subject experts, mentors, events and funding opportunities. ncTakeOff is an On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) project, funded by Ontario Centres of Excellence and Niagara College.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and aesthetics. For more information visit


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