Organizers of an Open House at the Education and Employment Centre — a joint effort between Stratford-based Partners in Employment and the Town of St. Marys-supported Adult Learning Programs — on Monday were thrilled to have both the federal and provincial members of parliament in attendance. The Centre relies heavily on funding from both upper levels of government to be able to provide the job search and skills development services available at the Wellington Street resource room, and the presence of both Randy Pettapiece and Gary Schellenberger surely gave them comfort that community-based services for job-seekers remain priorities for politicians.
To the credit of both men, Pettapiece and Schellenberger seemed genuinely interested in the work of the Adult Learning Programs and Partners in Employment, engaging in discussions with the job-seekers, job search specialists, and prospective employers who were also at the Open House. And when it came time for them to address the gathering, they stepped outside the bounds of prepared statements to offer personal perspectives on how hard it can be to get established in a career these days.
Schellenberger had a short prepared statement, which he read. But then he progressed to relate the concerns of an elderly constituent who was worried about the fate of his two job-seeking grandsons.
The veteran MP — who recalled being at the Education and Employment Centre’s opening seven years ago — even talked about a member of his own family who didn’t complete Grade 9, who is now facing the challenges that come with an employment reality that increasingly demands at least a Grade 12 education.
The Adult Learning Programs and other similar services, he noted, are doing what they can to help people in those situations.
Pettapiece, meanwhile, had just finished discussing the job search struggles of a young person in the audience, and relayed his gratitude to the Open House hosts for the services they provide.
Talking about creating jobs, of course, is easy for politicians of any stripe — far easier than risking losing the votes from a portion of the audience by discussing a more controversial topic.
But it’s still appreciated when a politician, even when addressing a safe topic, gives the impression that they really care, and really understand.