FeaturesTough Cookies

Tough Cookies

WORDS Imogen Pickering

The word ‘tough’ has two definitions:

  1. Strong enough to handle adverse conditions or rough handling
  2. Ability to endure hardship and pain

At some point in our lives, we all have to face tough conditions, be they emotionally or physically. But, in certain careers, dealing with difficult circumstances is a daily occurance. We met two gentlemen; Alex from A&A Scaffolding Solutions and Julian from Maillard’s Funerals, whose daily routines see them face tough working conditions, on two entirely different spectrums.

Managing Director, Founder
A&A Scaffolding Solutions Ltd.

What does a typical working day involve for you?

It’s an early morning start, getting to the yard to schedule the day’s jobs for the team and having the wagons either loaded with scaffold gear or emptied from the day before. The main aspect of my job nowadays is in pricing up jobs and managing schedules, but I’m sometimes required to jump back on the tools. This would mean either stripping/dismantling scaffolding or assisting in erecting jobs, however that is usually delegated to the fantastic team I have working for me at A&A Scaffolding Solutions Ltd.

What possessed you to pursue a career in scaffolding?

I was never someone who enjoyed school, since I loathed paperwork and being stuck indoors, so I knew I wanted to pursue a career which meant I could be outside. To be honest, I thought Scaffolding looked easy, but I soon realised it was far from it. I’ve stuck at it for so long because of the banter and camaraderie you get with working in a team, as well as the fact you get to spend all of your time outdoors, especially in the summer when it’s hot.

What is the toughest aspect of your job?

Scaffolding is a manual job, for which you need to have a head for heights and be physically strong. Although it’s great working outdoors in the summer, on the flip side, working throughout the winter can be bitterly cold. In any given day, you can be up and down scaffolding structures which can be high as the tallest buildings Jersey, lugging about seven tonnes of scaffolding tubes and boards. It can be hard on the back and joints, especially when you get as old as me! Having said this, it definitely keeps you fit, healthy and strong, which is proven by the fact that we still have a couple of guys in their sixties working on the tools for us.

What does it take to do your job well?

Scaffolding has evolved massively over the last 20 years, so the skill sets and techniques the trade once required are very different to what’s needed now. The most important thing you need to have is a good sense of awareness and common sense, with a good regard for health and safety guidelines; as these keep the public and us safe. In addition, you must be reliable, be able to work with and trust your team, as well as having a good head for heights.

Managing Funeral Director
Maillard’s Funerals Ltd.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

Every day is different, there is no set routine. Much of the time you are involved in arranging funerals which consists of sending numerous emails or phone calls and attending to paperwork. Then there are the days you are officiating at a funeral which can take up quite a few hours and then there are the times when you are meeting families to discuss making funeral arrangements. There is so much variation to your day and it can all change with one phone call, one minute you can be at your desk the next you can be out and about on a variety of different tasks.

What possessed you to pursue a career in funerals?

I had been in the jewellery trade for many years and decided it was time for a new challenge. The funeral business has always held an interest for me, I consider it a very noble and quite an elite career which not many people would think of doing as a profession. My skills in dealing with people over many years have proved useful to help support and guide them through a hugely emotional time in their lives. I have found it to be a tremendously rewarding career and I am so pleased I accepted the offer to join the Maillards team.

What is the toughest aspect of your job?

There are a number of difficult aspects in this job and certainly one of the hardest is witnessing an individual or family totally distraught at the loss of their loved one. You have to remain professional but give strength, support and guidance to them even if inside you are feeling their grief. Having said that, if there comes a time when you are not emotionally affected anymore then perhaps that is the time to seek another career. When you are dealing with a number of funerals all at once there are numerous fine details, arrangements and legal paperwork all to be done within limited time constraints, forget just one element and it can disastrous. You only get one chance to get a funeral right.

What does it take to do your job well?

You must be empathetic, a very good listener, have strong organisational skills and be able to work under pressure to achieve deadlines. You will need to be an excellent timekeeper, attention to detail is paramount and have the desire to go that extra step to help people through possibly the worst time of their lives. Finally and strangely, you may think, you must have a good sense of humour because on a bad day that is the one thing that will help you to get through it.

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