Thousands of New Job Seekers Join the Cannabis Community Since the Onset of COVID-19

A sit down with Vangst, a top recruiting firm in the Cannabis industry.

Photo Credit: Global News

In a recent piece that I wrote for Leafly, discussing Cannabis education amid the Corona pandemic, I discussed the 108% increase in enrollment, that a Cannabis college saw since the height of the pandemic. Cannabis is an industry that is surviving, deemed an essential business, and an industry that thousands of new job seekers are flocking to get hired in Cannabis, and/or enroll in Cannabis education programs.

Job seekers join the Cannabis community at a great time because- legalization is on the rise. Both for medical and recreational purposes, the world is seeing the value of the plant! And it’s about time because since the beginning of time, Cannabis has contributed to greatness in the world.

Recently, I interviewed Vangst about the boom in the industry, the benefits of hiring from the experienced in Cannabis pool, and the benefits of hiring from the not experienced in Cannabis pool. It was important to get insight from a Cannabis recruiting firm about the importance/need for Cannabis education, but also discuss the reasons that Cannabis companies shouldn’t just focus on Cannabis education and experience. 

Vangst, is a top recruiting firm in the Cannabis industry, that helps job seekers in the Cannabis community find jobs in Cannabis, and helps Cannabis companies by posting their job openings. Whether looking to build a career in Cannabis, or hire best team, Vangst is the place where talent and opportunity unite.

Hear from Vangst about Employment in The Cannabis Community/ Industry

The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

Photo credit: Cannabis Training University

Tell me about Vangst- mission, purpose, and goals.

“First and foremost, we’re a cannabis talent company. That means we’re the company the cannabis industry relies on to post jobs, find work, and advance careers. We work with companies who are hiring professionals, and employees who are looking for work. We do that for a wide range of cannabis needs, from temporary gig workers who harvest the plant to full-time chemists in the lab. 

Our network and services are designed to powerfully and confidently match the right people with the right jobs, and they’re designed to do it for every job and every type of employee. Seasonal contractors, temporary gigs, part-time, full-time, first-timers, and veterans of the industry. 

You name it, we match it. But we’re more than a talent company; we’re also a place where the cannabis industry comes to learn and grow. We are a team of advocates – for our clients and candidates, for the industry, and for the plant itself. We help start careers, advance careers, and empower both companies and employees with not just job placement, but also industry education and training. 

More than anything, we exist to help the entire cannabis industry succeed and are constantly finding new ways to do just that. Oh, and fun fact: Vangst is a Dutch word for “catch.” We think of ourselves as being the industry’s best place to catch the industry’s best talent, jobs and tools.”

How did Vangst make its way into the Cannabis job market space?

“The founder had the idea to recruit talent in the cannabis industry in 2015, around graduation time from St. Lawrence University. At the running a student travel company, so had a large network of students and recent graduates all looking for jobs. 

After surveying the students, it was realized they were very interested in jobs in the Cannabis industry. We decided to explore the industry so, went to an industry tradeshow to speak to Cannabis companies about their hiring needs. We found that hiring was a huge pain point for them. 

A lot of the same tools used by mainstream industries weren’t made available to Cannabis companies, and finding quality professionals who were able to see past the stigma of Cannabis was challenging. 

The types of positions that were available in the Cannabis industry, even in 2015, were crazy. On the spot (seriously, made businesses cards that day), we decided to start a Cannabis recruiting company, originally named ‘Gradujuana,’ where we could connect college students and recent grads with jobs in the emerging Cannabis industry. We got started with interested companies at that very first tradeshow, and since then, we’ve built a team that has helped build all of what Vangst has become today.”

In 2019, the Cannabis industry added 33,700 new jobs, up 15% from the year prior. And this growth came despite shakeups caused by capital dry-ups, the vaping crisis, and more. Why do you all think that is?

“Booming adult sales is one huge reason! U.S. consumer spending on Cannabis grew 34% in 2019, to $12.2 billion, according to BDS Analytics. Additionally, as recreational use continues to expand, so does the job market. 

Illinois was a major new adult-use legal state in 201, and as more businesses in previously legalized states mature, so do employment opportunities. We’ve also seen yet again since COVID, that businesses like alcohol and Cannabis tend to be “recession-resistant” and weather overall economic downturns quite well.”

The most pioneering and innovative professionals are quickly recognizing the upside of getting involved in Cannabis. How would you all describe the upside?

In a recent panel discussion featuring Vangst candidates who have made the transition from a more mainstream sector to the Cannabis industry, one panelist summed it up perfectly: ‘No matter what role you hold, you are literally writing the history of a new industry.’

One of the biggest upsides to getting into the cannabis industry now is that you get to be part of the birth of an industry that will change the course of our global economy. Cannabis is projected to exceed more than $30B in sales by 2025, and the prospect of getting a slice of that pie early on is a huge draw. 

Cannabis has also proved itself in 2020 to be extraordinarily recession- resistant, with retail sales actually up in 2020 over the same period in 2019. This means Cannabis is an industry where employment opportunities are actually increasing despite the widespread economic instability, we’re experiencing in the U.S. 

In fact, a recent study we completed with LeafLink and Flowhub found that 68% of surveyed companies are actually looking to increase their headcount in the 2nd half of 2020.”

For those new to Cannabis, but not to the job market, what should they know about navigating the Cannabis job market?

“We believe strongly in our saying that there’s a place in Cannabis for everyone. No matter what your career background, area of specialty, level of Cannabis work experience, or relationship with the plant is, you truly can find a fulfilling job in Cannabis. It’s one of the most exciting, fastest-growing industries in the world and that also means it offers ideal career paths for just about everyone. 

That said, there’s a lot to prepare for and understand if you want to jump into the market. Here are a few tips:

Understand the difference between plant-touching and ancillary roles. In a plant-touching role, you can expect to have direct contact with the plant – anything from trimming and harvesting, to budtdening and retail experience management, to chemist and lab extraction roles. You’ll also need special licensing or certification in many markets to hold a plant-touching role. Many ancillary roles mirror what candidates may be used to seeing in other more traditional sectors – there is no shortage of demand for marketers, IT experts, sales pros, customer service reps, finance and administrative specialists, and executive leaders in cannabis.

The regulatory landscape is complex and ever-changing, and it varies from state to state – sometimes even varying greatly within states. Understanding the nuances of your specific market, and understanding regulations across multiple states if you want to work for a multi-state operator (MSO) – is critical. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there that can help interested candidates learn. If you want, you are welcome to link to Vangst’s state regulatory guide in this article! It’s one of our most popular resources. 

Cannabis experience isn’t always the #1 criterion – even by a long shot! Many Cannabis companies crave outside experts who can bring expertise and tenure to a team who is lacking in that particular area. This makes career pros from other industries more valuable than they often think.”

For employers recruiting for a new industry like Cannabis, what should they keep in mind when searching for talent?

“BE COMPETITIVE! For many professionals, the financial upside of a career in the booming Cannabis industry can be an extremely attractive option. You can take advantage of this interest by offering competitive packages for outside industry pros who can help level up your company.

LET THE RIGHT PEOPLE KNOW YOU’RE HIRING A lot of people who simply don’t know about the growth potential and opportunities available in the Cannabis industry. Get your marketing and people teams involved early in your employer branding and prospect targeting efforts! A great focus area right now is on industries that have been forced to lay off large percentages of their workforce. Seasoned pros bringing experience from traditional retail, hospitality, food & beverage, and travel industries can be amazing natural fits for the fast-paced, people-focused Cannabis industry.

NETWORKING IS KEY! Cannabis is a highly networked industry, and often times you’ll find the best industry-seasoned candidates simply by asking around, you’ll be surprised by how close-knit the industry is; don’t forget to ask for personal references from industry contacts you trust when beginning the hiring process.

OTHER REGULATED INDUSTRIES CAN OFFER TALENT WITH HIGHLY TRANSFERABLE SKILLS If you’re hiring for managerial and director-level roles, look to other highly regulated sectors like gaming and adult beverages where candidates can complement your existing Cannabis expertise with valuable outsider perspective.

TRUST AN EXPERT TO GET IT DONE. Obviously, Vangst is in the Cannabis talent business for a reason. Successful recruitment strategy requires time, investment, and know-how, and expanding your search outside of the cannabis industry can feel overwhelming. When you need it done right and done well the first time, it’s almost never a bad investment to get expert, experienced help with your cannabis hiring.”

With the ups and downs in the industry, do you all believe that there are there any rewards worth the risk of leaving a mainstream industry with a stable history?

“Absolutely. At a time when fears about job security and steady work are at a fever pitch throughout the country, many past fears about the inherent “riskiness” of a federally illegal industry are quickly being replaced by optimism over the growth and job opportunities that the industry offers. 

Plus, Cannabis is a natural gathering ground for change-makers and visionaries. You have to have a natural tolerance for risk and a drive to pioneer new ground in this industry, which has huge appeal to many people who feel like they are stifled, unchallenged, or upwardly limited in their more traditional career roles. 

Additionally, the fact that Cannabis was deemed “essential” in the majority of legal markets during the COVID crisis is a strong indicator of the national opinion on the market and what is potentially on the horizon when it comes to legitimizing the industry on a federal level.”

Written by: Veronica Castillo

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