Medicinal Crops Project

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Case for change

Legislation has recently been passed in Australia to allow medicinal crops production, and expansion of the hemp and poppy industries. These sectors are required to adhere to state and federal regulations where appropriate, and producers and their staff are required to be aware of, and follow, these legislative obligations.

Industry consultation has identified the need for new, specialist skills training in growing and harvesting crops, security, understanding and implementing compliance, and government regulation.

The Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) approved this project, out of the 2018-2021 IRC Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work (see pages 61-62).

Skills Impact and the Agriculture and Production Horticulture Industry Reference Committee (IRC) will manage this project, consistent with the 2012 Standards for Training Package Development.

Download Project Proposal (see pages 61-62)

Project Plan

Medicinal crops are a rapidly growing industry in many countries around the world. New legislation in Australia has allowed the production of medicinal cannabis, which, in addition to the expanding poppy crops, has led to growth in the medicinal crop industry.

Medicinal cannabis is now recognised as a natural and effective medicine to treat numerous symptoms and medical conditions. Opium Poppies have long been used as a source for pain relief in pharmaceuticals.

As a result, new skills are emerging for growing and harvesting the crops, maintaining their security, and for understanding and implementing compliance and government regulations.

Poppies and cannabis are high value crops. The domestic market for medicinal cannabis is worth an estimated $100 million per year (University of Sydney Business School). Product consistency and quality are key to its continuing development.

Different strains of the plant are also grown for different medicinal purposes, which requires specific skills for monitoring sampling and testing. As described by Adam Benjamin from MEDIFARM. “Someone might have chronic pain; another patient might have multiple sclerosis. We have all these receptors in our body that can work with the hundreds of different medical cannabis plant strains. In our case we have exclusive genetics. So, we don’t mix and match. One part of the greenhouse will be growing for children with epilepsy, a different plant will be growing for chronic pain”

Project Scope

National units of competency will be developed that include the skills and knowledge required to grow medicinal cannabis and poppies in Australia.

 

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Relevant Occupations

Farm worker, greenhouse worker, farm manager, rural agribusiness manager, crop production manager, harvesting operator.

Skilled activities
  • Protected cropping
  • Broadacre cropping
  • Crop preparation and establishment, monitoring (irrigation, fertilising, pest management, harvestability, drainage, sampling and testing), harvesting and post-harvest management
  • Working within industry-based regulatory frameworks and understanding legal requirements and responsibilities
Timeline

Jun – Aug 2019
Initial scoping

Aug – Sept 2019
Development of draft qualifications, skill sets and units

Oct 2019
Drafts available for broad consultation

Feb 2020
Validation of final drafts

Mar – Jun 2020
Finalisation of Training Package components

June 2020
Submission for endorsement

Project Team
Ruth Geldard Industry Skills Standards Specialist, Skills Impact rgeldard@skillsimpact.com.au
Andrew Horgan Industry Engagement Manager, Skills Impact andrew@skillsimpact.com.au
Lina Robinson Skills Development Specialist
Opportunities for Stakeholder Input

Stakeholder input is appreciated throughout the duration of this project. Units of competency will be drafted in consultation with Subject Matter Experts and their networks. Opportunities to provide targeted feedback will occur when the draft materials are made available in October 2019, and again for validation of final drafts in February 2019. However, your feedback is welcomed at any time, and will help us in drafting the units. It is important that training provides a skilled and flexible workforce for the future. The units need to reflect real work experience. So, if you work in the sector, Skills Impact would love your input and help. Please feel free to register your interest for project updates and consultation opportunities by following the newsletter subscription link below. Alternatively, please feel free to contact the project manager, Ruth Geldard on 03 9321 3526 or rgeldard@skillsimpact.com.au.

Stakeholder Consultation Process

A list of key stakeholder organisations has been identified for this project. Skills Impact will ensure contact is made with each of these organisations during the development of this project to seek their involvement and their views on the draft qualifications, skill sets and units.

If you are aware of an organisation that you think should be involved, please contact the project team to ensure they are contacted by us.

Of course, all and any interested industry participants are encouraged to engage in the consultation of this project, when the draft qualifications, skill sets and units are available for feedback via this webpage and workshops that take place around Australia. Consultation is not limited to the organisations on this list. This list simply helps us to identify those organisations that, because of their industry role, size or specialty, are likely to have a key interest in the development and outcomes of this project.

Development

Medicinal crops are becoming more common in Australia, with the introduction of new legislation allowing the production of cannabis for medical purposes. Combined with the longstanding use of opium poppies in pain relief, there is a demand for skills in growing plants for medicinal purposes. The specialist knowledge required for medicinal cropping relates to the need for these crops to be highly regulated, and their value in terms of a pharmaceutical agent.

As part of this project, work is now underway to develop nationally recognised qualifications, skill sets and units of competency for the medicinal cropping sector.

In August, a workshop was held with subject matter experts and industry stakeholders who work directly in the cultivation and production of medicinal crops. This meeting identified the need for new, specialist skills training for: growing and harvesting medicinal cannabis, security, understanding and implementing compliance and government regulation.  At the meeting, it was recognised that cultivation and production of broadacre crops, such as poppies and hemp, are covered by existing training components related to Production Horticulture.

Consultation with industry experts in the medicinal cannabis sector has identified a requirement for the development of three new qualifications and up to 14 new units of competency to support the following job roles and meet the skill and knowledge requirements for the rapidly expanding workforce.

  • Cultivation/Grower assistants – Certificate Level II
  • Cultivation Supervisors/technical experts – Certificate Level III
  • Head Grower/Facility Manager – Certificate Level IV

Consultation Workshops – Registrations Open!

The draft qualifications and units will be made available on this webpage for broad stakeholder consultation and feedback during October (under the ‘Drafts Available’ menu above). We welcome your feedback and advice on the draft skills standards in this time. Face-to-face consultation workshops will also take place, with a webinar planned for those unable to attend in person. Registrations for these workshops are now open. Register for a workshop near you by clicking the corresponding link.

Face-to-face consultation workshops

Tuesday 8 October, 10am to 12pm AEST Brisbane – register here

Wednesday 9 October, 10am to 12pm AEST Sydney – register here

Tuesday 15 October, 10am to 12pm AEST Melbourne – register here

Thursday 17 October, 10am to 12pm ACST Adelaide – register here

Tuesday 22 October, 10am to 12pm AWST Perth – register here

Consultation webinar

Thursday 24 October, 10am to 12pm AEST – webinar – register here

Thursday 29 October, 10am to 12pm AEST – webinar – register here

Proposed qualification and units for development and review

Proposed new qualifications
  • Certificate II in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production
  • Certificate III in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production
  • Certificate IV in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production
Proposed new units of competency
  • AHCMDC201 Apply security regulatory requirements for the medicinal cannabis industry
  • AHCMDC202 Assist with propagation of medicinal cannabis
  • AHCMDC203 Assist with maintenance of medicinal cannabis plants
  • AHCMDC204 Assist with harvesting of medicinal cannabis
  • AHCMDC301 Apply regulatory requirements to the production of medicinal
  • AHCMDC302 Propagate medicinal cannabis
  • AHCMDC303 Maintain medicinal cannabis
  • AHCMDC304 Harvest medicinal cannabis
  • AHCMDC401 Apply security measures for a medicinal cannabis site
  • AHCMDC402 Monitor regulatory requirements for the production of medicinal cannabis
  • AHCMDC403 Implement medicinal cannabis propagation program
  • AHCMDC404 Implement medicinal cannabis maintenance program
  • AHCMDC405 Implement medicinal cannabis harvesting program

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates and opportunities to provide input and feedback. Make sure to select ‘Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation & Land Management’ as your industry of interest.

 

Drafts Available

Recent legislation has allowed for the production of medicinal cannabis in Australia. This has seen the expansion of the industry, which was already producing opium poppy crops for use in pharmaceutical pain relief.

Medicinal crops are highly regulated and also highly valued as pharmaceutical agents. As such, specialist knowledge and skills are needed to produce and care for the plants.

Consultation with industry stakeholders has identified the skill requirements for the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis, including growth and harvest of crops, security requirements, and understanding and implementing compliance and government regulation.

Three new qualifications, four skill sets, and 13 units of competency have been developed to benchmark these skills needs. They reflect the job roles of individuals who work in licensed medicinal cannabis facilities, as cultivation assistants, technicians, and in supervisory roles:

  • Cultivation Assistant – Certificate Level II
  • Cultivation Technician – Certificate Level III
  • Cultivation Supervisor/Manager – Certificate Level IV

The units of competency describe skills for the propagation, care, maintenance, harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis as well as quality, security, compliance and regulatory requirements.

Thank you to those who provided feedback on the draft qualifications, skill sets and units that were made available on this webpage for feedback from 4 October – 5 November 2019. 

During this time, feedback was collected via the online feedback hub, five face-to-face consultation workshops, two webinars and email. The drafts, including any comments made on the feedback hub, are still available for viewing below.

Feedback will inform the work on the final drafts which are expected to be available for industry validation in February 2020. A summary of the feedback and how it was addressed in the final drafts will also be available.

Unit code and name Rationale View Draft
AHC2XX20 Certificate II in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production This reflects the role of cultivation assistant, a role in which a range of routine tasks are performed to support controlled growing licensed medicinal cannabis operations under the direction of a supervisor. View draft qualification
AHC3XX20 Certificate III in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production This reflects the roles of cultivation technician, a role with responsibilities for undertaking a range of skilled work in controlled growing licensed medicinal cannabis operations. View draft qualification
AHC4XX20 Certificate IV in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production This reflects supervisory or managerial level roles, in which individuals are responsible for ensuring workplace processes comply with the legislative, regulatory and quality requirements of controlled growing licensed medicinal cannabis facilities and operations. They also use their knowledge and skills to plan for future work activities, solve problems, and take responsibility for others. View draft qualification

 

The draft documents can be downloaded in Microsoft Word format by clicking here.

Unit code and name View Draft
AHCSSXXXXXX Induction to Work in the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Skill Set View draft skill set
AHCSSXXXXXX Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production Assistant Skill Set View draft skill set
AHCSSXXXXXX Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production Skill Set View draft skill set
AHCSSXXXXXX Medicinal Cannabis Manager Skill Set View draft skill set

 

The draft documents can be downloaded in Microsoft Word format by clicking here.

Unit code and name View Draft
AHCMDC201 Apply security regulatory requirements to work in the medicinal cannabis industry View draft unit
AHCMDC202 Assist with propagation of medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC203 Assist with care and maintenance of medicinal cannabis plants View draft unit
AHCMDC204 Assist with harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC301 Apply regulatory and quality requirements to the production of medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC302 Undertake propagation of medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC303 Undertake care and maintenance of medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC304 Undertake harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC401 Apply security measures for a medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC402 Monitor medicinal cannabis production for compliance and quality View draft unit
AHCMDC403 Plan and implement a propagation program for medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC404 Plan and implement a care and maintenance program for medicinal cannabis View draft unit
AHCMDC405 Plan and implement a harvest and pre-processing program for medicinal cannabis View draft unit

 

The draft documents can be downloaded in Microsoft Word format by clicking here.

Summary of consultation to date

A workshop was held in August with Subject Matter Experts (SME) and industry stakeholders who work directly in the cultivation and production of medicinal crops. This meeting identified the need for new, specialist skills training for growing and harvesting medicinal cannabis, security, understanding and implementing compliance and government regulation. The new qualifications, skill sets and units have been drafted in consultation with SMEs through face-to-face meetings, confirmation of ‘on-the-job’ tasks during site visits and email communication to assist with industry-specific language and content requirements. Thank you to those who provided feedback during these activities.

 

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates and opportunities to provide input and feedback. Make sure to select ‘Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation & Land Management’ as your industry of interest.

 

 

Validation

Australia’s rapidly expanding medicinal cannabis sector requires workers with specialist skills and knowledge. Medicinal crops are highly regulated and also highly valued as pharmaceutical agents. Workers require skills in propagation, plant care, maintenance, harvest and pre-processing, as well as how to operate within the strict regulatory framework and security requirements.

“The medicinal cannabis sector has some unique features due to the regulatory environment in which it operates. This impacts the employee pool, the required skills and knowledge of employees and the nature of production. Work needs to comply with regulatory and security requirements, combined with elements of agriculture, horticulture, protected crops and pharmaceutical systems.” Rosemary Richards, Executive Manager Medicinal Cannabis Industry Association

Skills requirements for individuals supporting the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis in licensed medicinal cannabis facilities have been identified and described in the development of three new qualifications and 13 units of competency and four skill sets. These will form part of the larger AHC Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package.

Thank you to those who provided feedback on the draft units, skill sets and qualifications that were made available on this webpage for feedback from 31 January – 23 February 2020.

The drafts have been developed in consultation with experts from the industry, who are keen to benchmark the national skills standards for producing these high value crops. Skills to support product consistency and quality are key to this sector’s continuing development.

Final drafts of the qualification and units can be viewed in the lists below.

Summary of consultation to date

Thank you to those stakeholders who provided feedback on the initial drafts that were made available from 1 October –  5 November 2019, under the ‘Drafts Available’ stage. During this time, feedback was collected through the online feedback hub and emails, and as a result of nine face-to-face consultation workshops held around the country, a webinar, and phone calls. Feedback that was received on the initial drafts was considered to redraft versions of these final drafts.

A description of how feedback has been considered and applied in these final drafts can be downloaded below. Please click the ‘Download Summary of Feedback, Responses and Actions’ button.

Qualifications & Skill Sets

These draft qualifications and skill sets reflect the roles of individuals who work in in licensed medicinal cannabis facilities as cultivation assistants and technicians and also in supervisory roles.

AHC2XX20 Certificate II in Medicinal Cannibis Cultivation and Production Download final draft qualification
AHC3XX20 Certificate III in Medicinal Cannibis Cultivation and Production Download final draft qualification
AHC4XX20 Certificate IV in Medicinal Cannibis Cultivation and Production Download final draft qualification

 

 Click here to download a zipped folder of all skill sets in this group.

AHCSSXXXXXX Induction to Work in the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Skill Set Download final draft skill set
AHCSSXXXXXX Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production Assistant Skill Set Download final draft skill set
AHCSSXXXXXX Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production Skill Set Download final draft skill set
AHCSSXXXXXX Medicinal Cannabis Manager Skill Set Download final draft skill set

 

 

Units of Competency

These draft units of competency describe skills for the propagation, care, maintenance, harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis as well as quality, security, compliance and regulatory requirements.

 Click here to download a zipped folder of all units in this group.

AHCMDC201 Apply security regulatory requirements to work in the medicinal cannabis industry Download final draft unit
AHCMDC202 Assist with propagation of medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC203 Assist with care and maintenance of medicinal cannabis plants Download final draft unit
AHCMDC204 Assist with harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC301 Apply regulatory and quality requirements to the production of medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC302 Undertake propagation of medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC303 Undertake care and maintenance of medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC304 Undertake harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC401 Apply security measures for medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC402 Monitor medicinal cannabis production for compliance and quality Download final draft unit
AHCMDC403 Plan and implement a propagation program for medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC404 Plan and implement a care and maintenance program for medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit
AHCMDC405 Plan and implement a harvest and pre-processing program for medicinal cannabis Download final draft unit

 

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates and opportunities to provide input and feedback. Make sure to select ‘Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation & Land Management’ as your industry of interest on the subscription form.

 

Finalisation

The production and use of medical cannabis is a rapidly expanding sector in Australia, offering a new therapeutic option for a range of conditions including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and palliative care. This is presenting new job opportunities in the horticulture sector as more licenses and permits for its cultivation and manufacture are issued. Unique skills are required to operate within the strict regulatory framework and security requirements of the medicinal crops sector. Organisations producing medical cannabis require a license and permit granted by the Commonwealth Office of Drugs Control (ODC) and are regularly audited to ensure compliance to regulations. The high value of medicinal crops as pharmaceutical agents, means strong security measures also need to be maintained, including weighing and checking all inputs. It is essential that licensed sites have access to staff with the skills to meet these regulatory and security needs, as well as expertise in propagation, plant care, maintenance, harvest and pre-processing.

While still in a formative stage, the Australian medicinal cannabis industry is expected to see some major developments over the next couple of years and in particular, significant production and manufacturing capacity coming online from the licensed sector. This will require access to a workforce skilled in the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis, who can follow strict security and good agricultural and manufacturing practices to deliver Australian quality medicinal cannabis product to patients in Australia and globally.

Rosemary Richards, Executive Manager, Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA)

Industry has been consulted throughout this project to address the need for skills standards for the medicinal crops sector. This has resulted in the development of two new qualifications, four new skills sets, and 13 new units of competency. The qualifications have been developed to reflect the roles of individuals who work in licensed medicinal cannabis facilities as cultivation technicians and in supervisory roles. Consideration was given to capturing the skills needed by individuals entering the workforce at an assistant level. However, further input suggested that entrants into this sector at this level should be provided with the opportunity to develop a broad range of horticultural skills in both broadacre and protected cropping systems. Therefore, three units of competency have been developed for assistant roles in propagation, growth, and harvesting of medicinal cannabis plants and will be available for inclusion in existing qualifications as elective choices, rather than within a specialist qualification.

Key Outcomes
  • Certificate III in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production developed to provide the appropriate skills for those who work as cultivation supervisors and technical experts.
  • Certificate IV in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production developed to support skills appropriate for head growers or facility managers.
  • Four new skill sets developed to support categories of knowledge, skills and experience necessary for working in the medicinal cannabis industry, covering induction activities, cultivation, production and management roles.
  • Thirteen new units developed to capture the skills required to grow medical cannabis, including skills and knowledge in regulatory requirements, security measures, propagation, plant care, maintenance, harvest and pre-processing.
  • Of the 13 new units, three will be included in elective groupings of AHC20320 Certificate II in Production Horticulture (Elective Group C) and AHC21819 Certificate II in Protected Horticulture (Group E General electives).
Summary of consultation

A wide range of stakeholders have been engaged across Australia, representing all states and territories. Stakeholders have included key industry employers, national industry associations, government departments, unions, key training providers and a range of individuals who are considered to be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the cultivation and production of medicinal crops. The qualifications, skill sets and units were developed with guidance from a group of SMEs. The broader industry were then consulted on the draft documents at two different stages – the ‘Drafts Available’ and ‘Validation’ stages.

Feedback was collected via the online feedback hub, seven consultation workshops, a webinar, site visits, phone calls and email. 

A summary of feedback and how it was been considered and applied at both  the ‘Drafts Available’ and ‘Validation’ stages can be downloaded below.

The final draft units of competency, skill sets and qualifications have been submitted to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) for endorsement, after which they will be forwarded to State and Territory Ministers. The drafts have undergone an edit and equity and independent quality assurance process and consideration by the State/Territory Training Authorities (STAs/TTAs).

A Case for Endorsement was submitted alongside the draft units, skill sets and qualifications, including a rationale of why these changes are needed and evidence of industry support. A Companion Volume Implementation Guide has also been produced to assist industry and registered training providers (RTOs) deliver the units, skill sets and qualifications. It contains key information to help trainers adapt to the new changes, and additional information about the impacts of regulation and licensing implications and workplace health and safety on their training. Industry expectations on delivery of these qualifications, skill sets and units requires that the learner/trainee is over 18 years of age and understands their obligations regarding the regulatory requirements as an employee. Registered Training Organisations must ensure that delivery and assessment is according to ggovernment regulations and the Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) and the Good Manufacturin Practices (GMP) standards.

The submitted documents are available for download below.

Click here to download the Case for Endorsement

Click here to download the Companion Volume Implementation Guide Part 1

Click here to download the Companion Volume Implementation Guide Part 2

Qualifications & Skill Sets

 Click here to download a zipped folder of all qualifications in this group.

AHC33920 Certificate III in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production
AHC42320 Certificate IV in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production

 

 Click here to download a zipped folder of all skill sets in this group.

AHCSS00119 Induction to Work in the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Skill Set
AHCSS00120 Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production Assistant Skill Set
AHCSS00121 Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production Skill Set
AHCSS00122 Medicinal Cannabis Manager Skill Set

 

 

Units of Competency

 Click here to download a zipped folder of all units in this group.

AHCMDC201 Assist with propagation of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC202 Assist with care and maintenance of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC203 Assist with harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC301 Apply security regulatory requirements to work in the medicinal cannabis industry
AHCMDC302 Apply regulatory and quality requirements to the production of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC303 Undertake propagation of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC304 Undertake care and maintenance of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC305 Undertake harvest and pre-processing of medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC401 Apply security measures for medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC402 Monitor medicinal cannabis production for compliance and quality
AHCMDC403 Plan and implement a propagation program for medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC404 Plan and implement a care and maintenance program for medicinal cannabis
AHCMDC405 Plan and implement a harvest and pre-processing program for medicinal cannabis

 

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates and opportunities to provide input and feedback. Make sure to select ‘Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation & Land Management’ as your industry of interest on the subscription form.