Cannabis Job Fair highlights stiff competition for talent

Employers woo cannabis job seekers who have invested in themselves and have demonstrated well-rounded backgrounds

The cannabis job fair held at the private Herbal Risings campus and the Staff MMJ HQ office mid May was a microcosm of the national cannabis market. Among the hundreds of visitors who mingled with employers amid door prizes and carnival-style games, the managers and recruiters were noticeably in no rush to commit. That’s because in the cannabis market, quality workers are in greater demand than quantity. In Arizona, a new dispensary agent card costs the employer $500. Add this to the regular costs of acquiring a new employee— such as marketing, hiring, and training and development, and you’re looking at nearly $2000 per new hire.

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“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a steady stream of interest from job seekers, but as the market evolves, the level of competition is becoming fierce,” says April Olshavsky, Public Outreach Coordinator at Staff MMJ, who was at the cannabis job fair helping applicants fix their resumes. “If your resume does not have your name and correct contact information on it, forget about it. It’s going straight to the recycling bin.” April offered assistance to dozens of job seekers with their resumes by reducing errors and highlighting the applicant’s achievements.

Just one table down at the Herbal Risings campus, Chad Olshavsky was holding mock interview sessions with visitors. Chad is the cannadean at Herbal Risings. He says the best way applicants can prepare for their marijuana job search is through practice.  “This opportunity was about giving individuals career motivation through a couple of practice questions and helped them envision a successful interview.”

Many of the top picks either already have industry experience or have taken steps to advance themselves in the field. Dispensaries are cautious. Finding the right person is tough. Licensed dispensaries and cultivation centers must be extremely discerning due to employment regulations faced at local and federal levels. For example, in Arizona, dispensary agents must be over the age of 21 and can not have violent felonies on their records. New hires must pass background checks and agree to fingerprinting.

Cannabis job fair visitors are also much more discerning than other occupational fields. They want to know about wages, potential for job progress, benefits, career track guidance, and they need support and mentoring, because this is a new and rapidly growing field. Dispensaries like The Holistic Center and High Desert Healing are competing with extractors, kitchens and ancillary companies for the best of talent as a shortage of qualified workers has become a threat to the evolving marijuana industry, which has been a key engine fueling its economy growth. The market is flooded with people who want to work with weed. There is a huge demand for reputable workers but a very small supply of developed, fully-realized individuals. Those that get furthest are not picky about their schedules or driving distance because they know they are competing in a highly pursued field. “I have a clean background and I have some experience working with customers in a busy restaurant and I am confident,” 25 year old Kevin said, handing out his resume to a few of the organizations present.

We’d like to take a moment to thank all the organizations who attended or contributed to the Staff MMJ Arizona Cannabis Job Fair. The vendors and employers include Herbal Risings, 710 Chronicle, High Desert Healing, Arizona Cannabis Society, Dos Vapes, Arizona Green Life, El Gordo Title Loans, Cornucopia Infusions, Horizon Dispensary, Arizona NORML, A to Z Security, Nature’s AZ Medicine, American Green, Dr. Reeferalz, and The Holistic Center.

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