Medicinal cannabis will be one of Australia’s fastest-growing job sectors in the next few years. Cannatrek’s Paul Schwartz has some advice for people looking to join an industry that is changing lives.

As Australia’s medicinal cannabis industry grows, sourcing, developing and retaining the best and brightest talent will be a key competitive advantage. But that’s not without its challenges. This is a new market, which is still in the nascent stages of development, so finding staff with previous direct experience can be difficult.

Cannatrek head of marketing Paul Schwartz

Obviously, some vacancies will need to be filled by people with medicinal cannabis expertise. Roles that relate to growing, cultivation and research, for example, will require specialist knowledge.

But if you currently hold a position in a similar industry, you have a unique opportunity to apply your existing skillset to a different product. Certainly, those with a scientific background will be in high demand.

For more generalist roles such as IT and finance, you may not need previous industry experience, but it’s still beneficial to learn about the sector before applying to join a medicinal cannabis firm.

It means you’ll be able to prioritise key aspects of the role when you join, and really hit the ground running.

The beauty of this industry is that it is growing up – here and around the world – and that means new innovations are always on the horizon.

But we are also learning about those innovations as we go along. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air as greenhouses and facilities are built, or new strains are developed.

And there’s a great sense of camaraderie. Because it’s a relatively new industry here, you sense that everyone is cheering each other on.

It may be necessary to look overseas to fill some roles, sourcing staff from countries where the industry is more established. People with experience in those markets will have critical insights into the evolution of the industry and how things might play out in Australia.

Some Australian companies have also spent time overseas with their workforce to watch and learn from established companies. So you can always learn on the job.

There are also plenty of opportunities for local candidates with the relevant skills and qualifications. The employment pathways are many and varied.

If you’re a marketer, there are many nuances to consider, given the strict rules around medicinal cannabis advertising.

The type and level of speciality you’ll need will depend on the maturity of the organisation and its marketing department.

Typically, start-ups will hire generalists to cover a wide range of marketing disciplines, but as the company grows and the marketing team scales up in parallel, generalists make way for specialists after 12 to 18 months.

“The wonderful thing about this industry is that its primary focus is helping people achieve better health outcomes, so it’s incredibly rewarding.”

As far as experience goes, firms will look to hire the best marketing talent for a particular discipline, and then educate them on the industry.

That said, there are areas where the converse approach is valid, such as copywriting, where industry-specific expertise, in particular in the B2B2C healthcare industry, is paramount.

Once you’ve been offered a role, it’s important to make sure you’re joining a company with a great culture. The old saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast is so true, and inclusive leadership is where it all starts.

Look out for a senior leadership team that brings everyone on the journey and always connects to the company’s purpose. If the company holds strong core values aligned with meaningful work, you’re far more likely to find true job satisfaction.

Those that prize people, values and culture above all, stay true to their mission, and lead with integrity, will attract and retain the best staff.

The wonderful thing about this industry is that its primary focus is helping people achieve better health outcomes, so it’s incredibly rewarding.

The reason this market even exists is that community-driven regulation placed the need for plant-based medicine in front of governments all around the world. It’s not a fad, or trend, it’s here to stay.

The industry trade bodies also have a role to play in making the cannabis sector an attractive proposition for prospective employees (by working with tertiary education providers for example). There are so many great training opportunities, where an array of different roles are being built from the ground up.

And as the industry grows, local communities will also benefit from the jobs it creates.

In Shepparton for example, where Cannatrek is building its new facility, there are already plans in place to forge initiatives that engage and empower the local community, and provide new employment opportunities.

It’s hard to predict which roles will be the most sought-after in the next three to five years. Ultimately, it will depend on the strategic focus of the individual organisation and the overall growth trajectory of the industry.

But if momentum continues in line with previous years, there will be opportunities across the entire sector and at all levels.

So, to anyone looking to get their start in medicinal cannabis, remember that, just like any other sector, enthusiasm and the right attitude are paramount.

Start ups require adaptability and flexibility as new systems and processes are being built to accommodate the growth of the company and the industry.

A growth mindset is a great asset.

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