Marijuana companies are on the prowl for new employees, but experience growing weed in the basement likely won’t fly on a resume.

The bar for entry-level positions is moving higher as marijuana companies grow so fast it is no longer practical to train workers new to the industry. Growers and dispensaries increasingly want employees with academic training. The result: More colleges are starting to offer, for lack of a better term, a degree in growing marijuana.

“You’re going to need somebody who’s got some knowledge [that can] then adapt that to the facility,” said Paul Chialdikas, vice president of sales and marketing at Bedford Grow, which has a cultivation facility in Bedford Park, Ill. “Timing is going to be critical for us to grab an employee that has experience. … We need them now.”

Most employees that have entered Illinois’ young marijuana industry did so either with experience earned in the black market or in states with more mature cannabis programs, like Colorado or California. Often, they have not worked with the plant at all.

Brian Kirkland and Jake Tracy started at Bedford Grow about three years ago without any experience. Kirkland was a butcher, and Tracy was in landscaping. Like all new employees at the facility, they started as trimmers, and have since worked their way up. For the past two harvests — or about six months — Kirkland and Tracy, now assistant cultivators, have each been in charge of the crop in one of Bedford Grow’s four grow rooms.

Sunglasses on, Kirkland moved among marijuana plants as blazing grow lights beat down, preparing a solution that would deliver nutrients to the plumping buds. The plants in his grow room were about a month from harvest, and they needed the food to produce dense, flavorful buds. Kirkland knew the solution would clog the tubes normally used to water the plants, so he had to feed them by hand.

In a plant-filled room nearby, Tracy cleaned his water lines. The plants in Tracy’s room were younger than Kirkland’s, maybe 2 months old. “In about a week they’ll be ready to start growing buds,” he said.

Kirkland and Tracy learned how to tend to the highly valued marijuana plants by apprenticing under the facility’s head growers. Soon Bedford Grow will add more cultivation rooms and need more growers to manage them.

Schools around the country are rolling out cannabis courses or degree programs. Northern Michigan University launched a four-year medicinal plant chemistry degree in the fall of 2017. That first semester, 20 students participated. Enrollment was up to 220 a year later. The University of California at Davis started offering a class on how cannabis compounds affect the human body last fall. Marijuana law classes are becoming more common, too, with courses at Ohio State University and schools in Colorado and Chicago.

More Illinois colleges and universities see the advantages to training their students for the advancing industry, but there are limits to how quickly they can roll out new programs.

Almost daily, Karen Midden, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, gets a call from someone with a question about the cannabis program the school announced last year. Medical cannabis growers also call in search of students who know a thing or two about running a greenhouse.

“People think it’s some magical thing you have to learn to grow marijuana,” she said. In reality, she said, some of the same principals students learn about greenhouses or soil can be applied to cannabis.

There’s no shortage of people interested in working at a marijuana dispensary, said Chris Torres, patient care specialist at Greengate Chicago. But most job applicants are what Torres calls “cannabis enthusiasts” — in other words, they know about weed, but they don’t know how chronically ill patients should use the drug.

“This business is super serious. … I have people literally break down at the table. At that point you become a therapist,” said Torres, who worked with Oakton on its program. “A cannabis enthusiast is going to have no idea how to react in that situation.”

For-profit Cannabis Training University, launched in 2009 and based in Denver, plans to roll out more advanced online course offerings this year, said CEO Jeff Zorn. The four-hour crash courses Florida-based HempStaff offers throughout the country are meant to be used as pre-employment training, to get potential dispensary workers interview-ready, said its CEO James Yagielo.