As we approach the one-year anniversary of legal cannabis in California, the Coachella Valley has gone through many changes—specifically on the employment front.
As this new industry has evolved, so have the career prospects in the region, with many cannabis employers in the Coachella Valley ramping up to hire in large numbers in 2019. Understandably, many potential employees have questions about careers in the cannabis industry—and there are a few things any prospective employee should know before jumping in.
The job opportunities are numerous and continuing to grow along with the industry, ranging from entry-level jobs, such as budtenders and trimmers, to high-level growers and professional roles, such as human-resource work and executive leadership. While the high-end jobs can pay up to six figures, it is taking some time for the industry to catch up in terms of pay and benefits, although things are beginning to level out.
Remember that the majority of the cannabis companies in the Coachella Valley are ever-evolving, meaning companies are not as stable as many potential employees would like. Some these companies have experienced a level of “sticker shock” at the market rate for qualified employees. Brian Harmsen, CEO of Designworks Talent in Palm Springs, which specializes in cannabis job placement, cautions that although the cannabis industry is catching up, it is still behind the curve because of its infancy. He said it’s critical that any new employee understand the scope of the work—and understand the challenges currently facing the industry. Anyone interested in entering the industry must keep in mind it is an industry in flux, and therefore may not be good for those who are not flexible, he said. As with all startup industries, there are many kinks that will take time to work out. Harmsen said startup cannabis companies are risky, often disorganized, sometimes messy, fast-changing, and lacking in infrastructure. If you don’t have the ability to tolerate the dynamics of the industry in its current state, you may want to consider waiting until the California cannabis industry is more established, he said.
The instability and newness do not mean employees aren’t entitled to the protections afforded to them by U.S. and California labor laws—and many cannabis companies are hiring people without fully understanding the legalities of being an employer, breaking labor laws and thus putting their companies at risk. Jerry Cooksey, director of marketing and employment brand at Designworks Talent, said employees need to know their rights to ensure they are protected, especially as more and more cannabis companies are coming online and ramping up their hiring.
The fact that the industry is new affects both sides on the hiring equation; there are not a lot of people experienced in the cannabis industry for companies to hire. Because of these challenges, cannabis companies must carefully consider how they do their workforce planning in order to recruit the best talent. Cooksey said cannabis companies need to fully understand their brands and who they are, identify their workforce values, determine employee support (such as benefits and compensation packages), clearly define employment needs (including job analyses), and ensure they have legitimized their ability as an employer by understanding labor law and making sure they have all of the required insurance in place.
If you have determined you can tolerate the current state of the industry and are looking to be hired, Harmsen suggested that potential employees consider the size of the company and its culture, ask questions, and look at how the company is branding and marketing itself. Also: Take queues from the interview.
There is no doubt the “green rush” is bringing new employment opportunities to the Coachella Valley. The potential for economic development in cities like Desert Hot Springs, Coachella, Indio and Cathedral City is unprecedented, and each large facility opening can mean between 150 to 300 new jobs. As things level out in the coming years, we can expect to see a solvent and strong workforce in cannabis throughout the Coachella Valley.
Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.