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No Right Answers Regarding Employment Psychological Testing

Finding employment is not easy for me. I graduated with honours with a college diploma which cost me a large amount of money ; however, that diploma did not give me any marketable skills or work experience. I spent a couple of hundred dollars of my own money to obtain provincewide lift truck (forklift) certification, but I could not find a job that did not require lift truck operation experience. **

For many years, I have struggled and survived with temporary contract and seasonal jobs. Finding work is hard for me, and some employers make it even harder. One of the most annoying procedures some employers make applicants go through is a pseudo psychological claptrap test. ***

It is my opinion that these tests are absolutely worthless, but more and more major employers seem to use them as some kind of magic wand way of finding the best employees. I do not believe these tests, although perhaps trivially interesting to the Human Resources personnel, are of any scientific value, and especially not when administered over the Internet. Most important, the test is not administered by a competent trained professional in psychology. A single Internet test will determine nothing about an applicant's suitability for a employment position, and the test is highly questionable.

The first thing that is usually told to the applicant about the test is, "there are no right or wrong answers". If true, to this I reply, “Then why are you giving me the test?" There are "right" and "wrong" answers, otherwise the test would not be given. It is clear that if one does not pass the test an employment interview is not granted regardless of anything else the applicant submits that is relevant to the position, such as a résumé, cover letter, references, or credentials. In my view, the test is also flawed because I can cheat doing it.

When reading the questions asked on the multiple choice test that has answers that are vague ("strongly agree, somewhat agree, agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree")  one can easily determine which answers are "right" and which answers are "wrong" based on what the applicant knows the employer wants to hear. This is not difficult as it takes only some common sense. One can presume that if one randomly answered the questions each time one took one of these tests, one will likely eventually answer enough of the "right" questions to proceed in the application process on chance alone. Finding the identical test for different employment positions in unrelated employment sectors further erodes the credibility of these tests in my mind. ****

Finding a job is a difficult task for me. I understand the problems employers face in hiring new people; however, there is no magic solution to my finding employment, nor is there any magic solution to an employer finding a good new employee.

It took me about 13 years, but I still paid off my student loan with my meagre earnings. 

** Unable to find work as a lift truck operator, I allowed my certification to expire. 

*** Pilot Flying J, Loblaws, McDonald's, Walmart, Home Depot, Serco Canada Inc.

© Trevor Dailey

Video: Toria Gets a Job 

London Kellogg Plant Shuttered

The London Kellogg plant, number 312, has been permanently shuttered. I first wrote about the closing here, but I have decided to revisit the topic briefly now that the plant is closed.

The only reason given for the plant closure in the media is people eating less ready to eat cereal * in Canada and the U.S.A.. This has a part to play in the closure, but it is only one part. 

Raisin Bran® posted a solid consumption increase behind good innovation and advertising that has resonated with consumers, and Froot Loops® posted consumption growth as a result of innovation launched during the year.

Source: Kellogg Company 2013 Annual Report

The biggest part is debt. Kellogg has a $7.4 billion debt as reported in its 2013 Annual Report. There are some reasons for this high debt, but it is not because of the drop in North American cereal sales over the last few years. Cereal sales in the Asian market have increased. Although debt is not unusual for a company to carry Kellogg knows that its debt must be paid or the Company will eventually go bankrupt. This is the driving force behind the four year Project K that is restructuring Kellogg. Part of that restructuring is cutting costs.

Total debt was $7.4 billion at year-end 2013 and $7.9 billion at year-end 2012.

Source: Kellogg Company 2013 Annual Report 

The London Kellogg plant workforce was unionized, and this meant high wages between $20 to $30 per hour, and generous benefits including a company pension. The London Kellogg plant was almost fully automated from start to finish. Work at the Kellogg plant was not labour intensive.

Thanks to a $223 million expansion that started in 1984, Kellogg Canada's 106,000 m2 london plant is one of the most technologically advanced cereal manufacturing facilities within the Kellogg Company. 

The highly efficient London facility uses computer-automated machines that perform all steps of production from mixing the grains to packing the boxes in cartons. A monorail system carries in-process food throughout the plant and equipment is washed by high-powered sprays, called CIP (clean in place) technology. 

Source: London Kellogg Canada Company website  

The London Plant is very large, and therefore might be expensive to run with the rising cost of hydro, property taxes, business taxes, along with other expenditures. Although the London plant was one of the most technologically advanced Kellogg plants, it may have been just too expensive to operate under the current conditions. So far, there is not even a mention of the London plant closure by Kellogg in their reports to their shareholders. 

It took about one year to finally close the plant. Operations were ramped up during this winding up time, ironically, to increase cereal inventories before the factory ended production. The factory was operating 24 hours per day. Now, it is silent. Kellogg in London survived through the hard economic times of two world wars, and a great depression. The Kellogg factory was part of London for more than 100 years. It is difficult to believe it is now gone. It is even harder to believe that diet trends and fads may have killed it; especially when Kellogg purchased Pringles® potato chips in 2012.

Pringles® acquisition On May 31, 2012, the Company completed its acquisition of the Pringles® business (Pringles) from The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) for $2.695 billion, or $2,683 billion net of cash and cash equivalents, subject to certain purchase price adjustments, which resulted in a reduction of the purchase price by approximately $15 million to $2.668 billion net of cash and cash equivalents. The acquisition was accounted for under the purchase method and was financed through a combination of cash on hand, and short-term and long-term debt. The assets and liabilities of Pringles are included in the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 28, 2013 and December 29, 2012 and the results of the Pringles operations subsequent to the acquisition date are included in the Consolidated Statement of Income.

-----

For the year ended December 28, 2013, the Company incurred integration-related costs as part of the Pringles acquisition as follows: $46 million recorded in SGA, $15 million recorded in COGS and $5 million in net sales. Transaction fees and other integration- related costs incurred through December 29, 2012 were as follows: $73 million recorded in SGA, $3 million recorded in COGS and $5 million in fees for a bridge financing facility which are recorded in OIE. For the year ended December 28, 2013, Pringles contributed net revenues of $1,658 million and net earnings of $132 million, including the integration- related costs discussed above. Through December 29, 2012, Pringles contributed net revenues of $887 million and net earnings of $31 million, including the transaction fees and other integration-related costs discussed above.

Source - Kellogg Company Annual Report 2013

* Queen’s University Professor Ken Wong obviously did not know about the technologically advanced automation at the London Kellogg plant, nor that Kellogg cereals:

All-Bran, Apple Jacks, Bran Buds, Cinnamon Crunch Crispix, Choco Zucaritas, Cocoa Krispies, Complete, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Corn Pops, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Crispix, Cruncheroos, Crunchmania, Crunchy Nut, Eggo, Kellogg’s FiberPlus, Froot Loops, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Kellogg’s Krave, Frosted Krispies, Frosted Mini- Wheats, Fruit Harvest, Just Right, Kellogg’s Low Fat Granola, Mueslix, Pops, Product 19, Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Raisin Bran Crunch, Rice Krispies

are not all  "...highly sugared cereals" as he says. In fact, sugar content in sweetened ready to eat cereals has been decreasing for many years because of consumers wanting less sugar in cereal, and other cereals never had much sugar to begin with. Some of Kellogg's cereals, such as Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, are of the most basic and simple foods that fall into that so- called "natural" category he mentions, and so-called "organic" means how the food ingredients were grown, and not how the product was prepared in the factory. 

© Trevor Dailey 

Video: How It's Made - Cereal

Video: How It's Made - Pringles®

Attacking Our Food

The food industry is one of the most competitive and crazy industries there is. Competitive because there are so many food producing companies out there making all kinds of food products that are all competing for the money in shopper's pockets, from the snack cakes to the breakfast cereal. Crazy because there are a bunch of people lacking intelligence or common sense on the Internet spreading misinformation and lies about modern food products.

We live in a world of fear instead of curiosity. What is not understood is not met with reason and objective investigation it is attacked with ignorance and self-righteousness. I see this frequently in the unfounded attacks against harmless additives and natural occurring proteins in food. Unfortunately, food manufacturers seem to think they need to cater to these asinine fads and trends, or they capitulate to the demands of the Internet food ignoramus.

Since the processing of raw materials and the manufacture of foods in factories began companies have been making sure the food they are selling to their customers is the best quality that they can offer. Quality ingredients have always been the first part of a successful food manufacturing operation. Food manufacturers do not put anything into their food that would cause harm to anyone consuming their product. That would put the Company out of business fast and would have legal ramifications. Many eat the same food they produce and sell. Employees of a big food company usually buy the brands their company makes, people working in the fast food restaurants usually eat the food prepared there. The owners and workers in the food industry are not mindless and immoral people.   

Food safety, quality product control, and sanitary conditions at a food producing facility are paramount. A recall of a product will cost a company thousands or even millions of dollars. Each food additive is tested with rigour for safety before being approved for use. Ingredients are a big and expensive part of food production and companies don't use an ingredient they don't have a reason for using. It is preposterous to even suggest that a company is poisoning its customers, and yet this is exactly what some people are promoting.

I hear some people say, "it doesn't need to be in the bread" referring to some additive in bread. My reply would be milk, butter, eggs, raisins, nuts, or cranberries don't have to be in bread either. In fact, bread can be reduced to just flour and water if that is what one wants, but it is a chemical additive they might argue. Here it starts. This anti-chemical, anti-science, anti-company campaign we see today.

Yes, humans use chemicals. Humans learned about chemicals from nature. Nature taught humans about chemicals because nature started using chemicals first, and humans saw the benefits of chemical use. Chemistry was created from what humans learned from nature. Chemicals are used in industry and in medicine. Just because it is a chemical does not mean it is harmful, nor does something natural mean it is not harmful. The vitamins and minerals added to fortified ready to eat cereal, for example, are synthetic (chemicals). These additives are beneficial, not harmful. 

A food product can be used in an non food application. Vegetable oil can be used to cook food and it can be used to power a diesel engine. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is used in baking as a leavening agent, used in effervescent drinks, and used in fire extinguishers. These non food uses does not mean vegetable oil and baking soda is harmful in food. 

The dosage is the poison. Solanine is a poison found naturally in potatoes that in large dosages can lead to death. However, the small amount ingested by eating potatoes is harmless. One would have to eat about 70 large potatoes in one sitting to receive a lethal dosage of solanine that is found in the potato. Would one stop eating potatoes and campaign with an Internet petition for the potato to be banned because the potato contains solanine? 

Many food additives are so small they are calculated in PPM (part(s) per million). A safe additive common in the fast food industry to make the bread rise more has a legal limit of 45 PPM. 1 PPM is 1 milligram of something per 1 litre of something, or 1 kilogram of something. If the maximum amount of the additive allowed is 45 PPM, then the maximum amount of additive in 45 kilograms of dough is just 45 milligrams.

The standard amount of the additive used is far lower than the maximum allowed, but even if the maximum was used each time, that 45 milligrams would be spread out over the number of loaves of bread made from the 45 kg of dough. In the end, the bread one would eat would have so little of the additive in it the additive would be barely detectable, if detectable at all because of its low PPM, and that this particular additive breaks down during baking. The additive even in its low PPM amounts still increases the rising of the bread loaf, and that is why this safe additive is used.

Unfortunately, I can't put these Internet food idiots in a time machine and send them back to a time before we had modern food processing and preservation to know just how much our food has improved over the years, and how it is the best it has ever been in both quality and convenience. That is where they want to take us, back in time. They don't know what it is like to have to take hours preparing each meal, food that lacked nutrients, was scarce, spoiled easily, having to deal with mouldy bread, or insects living in their food. If one does not like a type of food product, one has the choice to not buy it, but one does not have the right to force anyone else to do the same. 

A company must give what its customers want, but there is a line between serving customers with integrity, and promoting misinformation and lies to them to make some easy money. Food manufactures are playing a dangerous game by following nonsensical trends and fads, not standing by their products, and especially by not fighting back against the Internet food ignoramus.

© Trevor Dailey

carbohydrate |kɑːbəˈhʌɪdreɪt|

noun

Biochemistry any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

gluten |ˈgluːt(ə)n|

noun

a substance present in cereal grains, esp. wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease. ORIGIN late 16th cent. (originally denoting protein from animal tissue): via French from Latin, literally ‘glue.’

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Government Meddling With The Rent Part Two

As I previously wrote, my landlord was required to lower my monthly rent by 0.84% in accordance with the law because of a reduction in my landlord's property tax. My landlord did do this, reducing my rent by $3.26 per month.

Today, I received a notice from my landlord that, in accordance with the guidelines, my rent will increase on May 1st (earlier than I had expected) by the amount of $9.68. This 1.6 % increase not only erases the government mandated decrease of 0.84%, I will also be paying $6.39 per month more in rent than before the rent reduction.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, government needs to stay out of private business. Its meddling doesn't help matters.

© Trevor Dailey

Government Tax Money Corporate Grants

What are my issues with Dr. Oetker Canada Limited building a new frozen pizza facility here in London (on the outskirts) that began producing in May, 2014? Here are a few.

Dr. Oetker accepted approximately $21 million in tax money from the federal ($12 million) and the provincial ($9 million) governments. That money was taken by force, as is all tax money, from taxpayers to help fund a successful multinational company. Before that tax money has been paid back, Dr. Oetker bought the McCain frozen pizza division for an undisclosed amount. Dr. Oetker said it needed tax money to build the London factory, but apparently Dr. Oetker has lots of money to buy the entire frozen pizza division of McCain. Is Dr. Oetker going to pay back the $21 million in tax money it recieved before it purchases more multimillion dollar assets?

Because Dr. Oetker is a private company, there is no way for a taxpayer to review Dr. Oetker's financial reports to even know if the Company is making money or not in frozen pizza. There is no return for the taxpayer. There is no information on any repayment of the money. Taxpayers are not shareholders. Taxpayers are not investors. Taxpayers are just unwitting funders. But what about the jobs created?

Since about 2011, when the announcement was first made the frozen pizza factory was going to be built, the number of expected jobs at the plant has been more than 125 jobs. Since the factory finally started in 2014, the number is now 74 jobs. That works out to roughly $300,000 of tax money spent per factory job. Some of the workers at the London Dr. Oetker plant are not employees of the Company because they are hired by a placement/employment agency to work at the factory. But what about all the spin off supplier jobs?

There is a Cheese Factory Road in London, but there is no cheese factory there. I am not aware of any major cheese manufacturing facility in the area besides Pine River Cheese.  Flour? Tomato sauce? Pepperoni? Where are all these pizza ingredients going to come from? Cargill meats here in London only process chicken, not pork (pepperoni). In fact, I can't locate a single major raw ingredient producer in the area for pizza besides tomatoes from the Leamington, Ontario area, (where one of the largest Heinz plants recently closed), the Chatham, Ontario area, and the Tillsonberg, Ontario area. There is a Heinz division plant  (Richardson Foods) in St Marys, Ontario that the frozen pizza plant might have to compete with for tomatoes I suppose. Spinach, mushrooms, peppers, and onions are not major crops around here. Just who are Dr. Oetker's suppliers? 

I have not heard of any plans to build new facilities in the area to help supply the ingredients for the tens of millions of frozen pizzas to be produced yearly at the new factory. Moreover, I have not heard from a single supplier in the area who has said the new factory is a benefit to its business. (Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) said it will not benefit pizza restaurants) What exactly does this "locally sourced ingredients" term mean?

The recently closed London Kellogg plant that employed about 500 people did not "local source" any ingredients that I am aware of. Perhaps because Kellogg made cereal, and not $21 million frozen pizzas. (Kellogg makes multimillion dollar boxes of cereal at their new plant in Belleville, Ontario that was funded with tax money too.) We do seem to grow a lot of corn around here. Did the London Kellogg plant buy a lot of locally grown corn for its Corn Flakes cereal? 

I wonder how much of your hard earned tax money can I get if I open a frozen calzone making factory? You don't need all that money you earn working hard at your job, do you? Just throw it on the pile.

I will create jobs (you just need to pay me first), benefit the local economy (it depends), and put London on the map (for companies who want an interest free, no repayment schedule, unsecured tax money grant) with your money. You won't want to miss this exciting opportunity. Trust me. 

© Trevor Dailey