Today I had an assessment in the new Stoke on Trent postal sorting office for an MDEC operator position and I registered in Birmingham for a job in Edgbaston.
Reed Stoke on Trent have been contracted to find 555 Royal Mail MDEC temps for Christmas.
No. No one could tell me what MDEC (EM - DECK) stood for either.
The new Royal Mail building looks like one of those giant warehouse/shed things in the middle of a dedicated car park on a desolate and windswept business park that the local transport authority has only just started running buses through.
Bleak is an understatement.
As I had no idea about where this place was in relation to the train station, I got a taxi. It really is MILES out of Hanley town centre.
Once inside, the place was just like any other similar shed. Cardboard walls, high traffic, corporate carpet tiles and magnolia. Magnolia paint and magnolia, plastic coated, high resistance wallpaper everywhere.
There were a series of small computer training and conference rooms up on the first floor all named after different types of pottery. Etruria, Wedgwood, Minton, Doulton and so on.
While it's a fine idea to recognise the rich heritage of "The Potteries" region, why in here? It's the Royal Mail and nothing to do with china at all.
I arrived as one of the last candidates and we were led into "Minton". It was a medium sized, conference room with a computer presentation set up ready to go. There were about 16 desks, the lights were already dim and I got the clear impression that they had been waiting for us before they started.
We were shown an out of date PowerPoint presentation. The wages were wrong. So was the location. And the number of temps required. And the shift patterns were different now.
This was well organised. Not.
The presentation gave us an idea about the work involved and the test we were about to do. The handouts we were given were also handy. When in training we were expected to achieve 400 tasks per hour. By the end, after training we were expected to achieve over 900 tasks per hour. There were nervous laughs from the audience.
The awkward part came afterwards.
I had applied on-line through the reed.co.uk website, got e-mailed and rung up by Reed staff and rang back to check the requirements and I duly I showed up with proof of ID (passport), proof of NI number (P45), proof of address (bills) and my bank details.
I was mortified to be asked for my photos (?) and my cv.
When you're stuck in a conference room filled with desks and there are people sitting two or three to a desk handing over the required documents, it's embarrassing to have to say say "I didn't know, I wasn't told to bring those." when everyone else clearly had been.
They were quite nice about it and told me I could send it to them later - although they pointed out they they had told "everyone" what to bring.
Not quite everyone.
We were led along corridors to a vast open plan office and were seated at different desks. There were a couple of bods helping out with the IT. There were problems with some of the computers.
Again. An organisation thing. Would it have killed them to just try logging on to the computers that were going to be used before we arrived?
There was a test which was supposed to last for about ten minutes. It consisted of a series of scanned envelope images flashing up on the screen and the test was whether we had to tap the post code, the county or the city name into the computer. A series of codes highlighted down the side of the screen even told us what to put in.
The hardest part was trying to decipher the handwriting made less legible by the scanning process.
Before everyone else had finished, my test stopped.
I put my hand up and asked about why my test had stopped. I was brightly told that I had finished it, that's why.
983 tasks per hour. I completed the test so quickly it only took 6 minutes and 6 seconds. With a 99% accuracy rate.
After the West Bromwich warehouse job, that task was easy.
The girl who handed me yet more forms to fill in even thanked me for pronouncing her name correctly (it was Scottish) and I could send in a cv and two passport photos as soon as possible.
I finished the form filling. I filled in a small piece of paper that was clearly going to be an ID badge (that's what the photos are for), filled in my preferences for shifts and left leaving my Visitor's pass at the front desk.
On my way back I tried the bus route. There was close to a half an hour wait for the bus back to the bus station and another bus ride back to the train station and the university.
The registration was the usual thing.