HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s becoming a booming industry in the Commonwealth and now, a new program at Holyoke Community College will help prepare people for careers in the cannabis industry. 

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has been outspoken about his desire to make Holyoke a destination for cannabis business, turning some of these old mills behind me into growing and cultivating hubs. Now, Holyoke Community College is making sure they have a well-trained workforce to go with it. 

At a forum at HCC, Mark Zatryka, CEO of INSA, which operates recreational and medical marijuana businesses, said hiring for the cannabis industry can come with challenges. 

“To bring on a new employee is very expensive,” said Zatryka. “So, we do try to spend as much time as we can to select the right individuals, it can be really hard, because it is hard to find people with experience.” 

Now, HCC is teaming up with Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, out of Worcester, to help solve that problem.  

Zatryka added, “Develop a cannabis center for education at Holyoke Community College. There will be four Cadres of training that we are going to be involved in. Culinary, cultivation, extraction, and patient advocate.” 

In courting the cannabis industry, Holyoke hopes it will mean more job opportunities for a city struggling with unemployment. Randall MacCaffrie with Cannabis Community Care said marijuana is a new market, where the number of jobs continues to grow. 

“I believe the unemployment rate is double the rest of the state in this area,” MacCaffrie told 22News. “Right now there are 50 jobs available in the city, and they expect it to be 500 in the next year or so as these businesses open up in Holyoke, So I think it’s a real opportunity for the underserved, underemployed or unemployed to have this basic training in the industry.” 

MacCaffrie said the culinary cannabis program will be the first to start in January, with around 40 students.