Oakton hosts Illinois Community College Board during Community College Month

L-R: Wendy Yanow, Vice Chair, Oakton College Board of Trustees; Matt Berry, Chief of Staff, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB); Lazaro Lopez, Board Chair, ICCB; Brian Durham, Executive Director, ICCB; Nick Kachiroubas, Board Member, ICCB; Kristin Richards, Director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; Jennifer Foster, Deputy Executive Director, ICCB; and Joianne L. Smith, President, Oakton College outside of the PharmaCann Cannabis Cultivation Lab on Oakton College’s Des Plaines campus.

Des Plaines, Ill. (April 25, 2023) – Education and business leaders from across the state received an up-close look at the leading role Oakton College is playing in creating equitable opportunities for individuals to succeed in Illinois’ cannabis industry. The delegation, which included members of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), visited Oakton’s campus April 25 as part of ICCB’s Community College Month tour. April is National Community College Month, during which we recognize the importance of community colleges and their role in the higher education system.

The group toured the PharmaCann Cannabis Cultivation Lab on Oakton’s Des Plaines campus, the first educational facility of its kind on an Illinois college campus. The lab, which opened in 2022, includes three grow rooms with humidity, temperature, aeration and security controls. Through hands-on lab instruction using industrial strength hemp, students learn how to cultivate, cure and dry plants, process and package, preparing them to enter the multi-billion dollar industry.

“We are excited to welcome the Illinois Community College Board to our campus during National Community College Month, and we appreciate their commitment to creating educational opportunities for students throughout Illinois,” said Oakton President Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D. “Oakton College is committed to enhancing workforce readiness and community engagement and advancing racial equity to build just and thriving communities. Through Oakton’s Cannabis Studies Program, we support communities most impacted by previous cannabis prohibition laws by preparing them to enter one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S.”

Visitors included ICCB Board Chair Lazaro Lopez, ICCB Board Member Nick Kachiroubas, Director of Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Kristin Richards, ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham, ICCB Chief of Staff Matt Berry, and ICCB Deputy Executive Director Jennifer Foster.

“Seeing firsthand the innovative approach Oakton College is taking with one of Illinois’ fastest-growing industries is impressive,” said Lopez. “The education programs here are a shining example of why Illinois community colleges continue to be the leader in workforce development in our state. I’m looking forward to seeing more ways community colleges are making a big difference in communities throughout Illinois this spring.”

In 2019, Oakton launched the Cannabis Dispensary and Patient Care Specialist Certificate — Illinois' first community college health communications program focused on medical cannabis. The 12-credit hour program prepares students to provide advice to and care for patients seeking medical cannabis as a treatment for various ailments. Oakton's curriculum also helps students gain a thorough understanding of the laws, regulations and business operations of the medical cannabis industry. Oakton’s cannabis education programs have since expanded to include the Cannabis Transportation, Logistics, and Supply Chain Management Certificate and the Cannabis Cultivation Certificate – further expanding training available for students interested in obtaining jobs in the growing industry.

The 2021 U.S. cannabis market was valued at $33 billion, according to an analysis by market research firm Grand View Research. However, a 2017 survey from Marijuana Business Daily found that only 5.7% of cannabis business owners and founders were Hispanic/Latino, only 4.3% were Black and only 2.4% were Asian.

To learn more, please visit https://catalog.oakton.edu/career-programs-pathways/cannabis-studies

Members of the Illinois Community College Board toured the PharmaCann Cannabis Cultivation Lab during their visit to Oakton College’s Des Plaines campus on April 25.

Members of the Illinois Community College Board toured the PharmaCann Cannabis Cultivation Lab during their visit to Oakton College’s Des Plaines campus on April 25.


About the Illinois Community College Board
The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) is the state coordinating organization for the Illinois Community College System - the third largest in the country and the leading public workforce development trainer in the state. The ICCB has statutory responsibility for administering state and federal grants to community college districts and adult education providers and managing high school equivalency testing for Illinois. Illinois community colleges serve over 600,000 residents each year in credit, noncredit, and continuing education courses. Illinois is home to 48 colleges in 39 community college districts which provide high quality, accessible, cost-effective educational opportunities to the entire state.