Resumés in hand, locals come out to learn about medical marijuana plant jobs

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Myrna Gillis, the chief executive officer of Aqualitas, speaks at the event which drew over 150 people at the first sesssion.</p>

Over 150 people turned up for one of the information sessions on Aqualitas, a Queens County medical marijuana plant set to open in 2018, and it was apparent from the business casual clothing and the resumés in hand, that most were aiming to work there when the time comes.

Two information sessions were held on November 27 at the Best Western in Liverpool and outlined the company's plans to hopefully become the second licensed medical marijuana plant in the province.

Myrna Gillis, the chief executive officer of Aqualitas, spoke at the meeting first, going over the aquaponic technology the company will use and the history of their inception.

"Our background is varied, everyone on the team brings a different group of skill sets," said Gillis. "My background is in law."

The positions are varied because of the process the plant will use. Their version of aquaponics will include the use of koi fish, whose waste will feed the plants. The plants will also help with the fish's filtration system. The company is looking for everyone from aquaculture operators to office administrators, to lab testers to horticulturalists.

The job fair attracted a range of individuals with different skills.

Andrew Danylwich, a local artisan and jewelry maker, came out to hear the talk. He's particularly interested in the koi and fish health aspect of their business.

"It's interesting the range of job opportunities," said Danylwich adding that he used to breed Angel Fish and did a lot of exotic fish keeping in the past, so he's hoping he might be able to do something with the company related to the koi used in their aquaponics process.

Another entrepreneur, photographer Taryn Jollimore, sought some of the marketing work Darby and Gillis mentioned.

"I don't really need a job because I like being self-employed but there's a lot I like about the company, I like the sustainability aspect, the environmental side of things ... that's the kind of company I would like to work for," said Jollimore. "As a self-employed photographer there are lots of opportunities just on a contract basis.

"I think there is so much potential and it's nice to see something coming to the community that could grow a lot."

Katharina Cochrane is a new member of the community. She and her husband recently sold their company and moved to Queens, where her husband originates from.

"My background is in aquaculture and I see that's a good fit," said Cochrane. "I'm very excited, I live in Liverpool and there aren't many job opportunities around here."

The plant will be housed at Port Mersey, the former Bowater site. Gillis says the high security of the facility coupled with the large open spaces they were able to obtain, made for a perfect spot. Gillis has said in the past that she hopes to provide some employment to people who have lost jobs due to the closure of the papermill.

Barbara Darby, vice-president and corporate counsel for Aqualitas and who also spoke, will be in charge of hiring when the time comes and says right now they're looking at a possible 60 positions though potentially that number could grow depending on the company's success.

"There is a science aspect of things," said Darby.

"As you can see there are a lot of different types of skills we're looking for and I think the range of work that we'll be providing for the community will include part time work, full time work, potentially casual work, we are still in the process of getting together our final job positions for posting."

But they'll need a clean record, due to the nature of the job, and good bill of health says Darby.

Although many came to the presentation ready to hand in resumés, Darby says it's more important to apply online when the time comes, as that will be where the company looks first and will have a uniform application form.

"We want to really emphasize if you want to be sure you're considered for a job that you have the qualifications for, the website is the place to go."

Although promotional material has been created and the Aqualitas team appeared primed and ready, there isn't a solid timeline yet on when or if the company will get their medical marijuana licence from Health Canada. Still, they are confident that certification for the plant will come in early 2018.

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