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Real work: Nine to five - Toni Milling


Toni Milling, 19


Trainee steeplejack


pounds 140 per week


Mere, Wiltshire

How did the job start?

Before I worked here I was a volunteer carer with elderly people in Scotland. I saw an advert for a job as a trainee steeplejack, which offered residential training. I had to go to college for six months where I learnt how to put up ladders, use a bosun's chair, brickwork, painting and a bit about scaffolding. I have been based at the factory for the past year and this April I go back to the college for another month to finish my NVQ training.

How long have you worked there?

I started in September 1997.

Describe what you do

I work for Beaumont Chimneys who have a factory in Mere, Wiltshire. They make steel chimneys anything up to 300ft tall that are usually put on boilers anywhere: hospitals, chemical plants, oil refineries or schools. These chimneys are built up of sections that are any size and width. They are so big that sometimes a police escort is needed to get them out of the yard. A crane is required to lift each section up. You've got to be careful especially if it's windy because they swing about. When there are four of us working together, one will be working on the floor and there will be two of us including me bolting the sections together, having guided each new section into place. You can be away on a job up to three weeks at a time.

Where do you live?

I live on my own in a room in a pub in Mere, over the cellar. It's a locals' pub with a skittle alley and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. I have my own bathroom but share a kitchen with the landlord.

How does your day start?

My travel alarm clock, a black pounds 5 jobbie, goes off at 7am. I have a cup of tea and get dressed. I don't usually have breakfast. At 7.30am I leave for work.

What do you wear?

Jeans and a jumper. When it's cold I wear tights under my jeans and lots of layers. They provide you with a yellow high-visibility jacket and a safety helmet. I wear rigger boots that fit over my jeans. I'm not bothered by the rain; it's the cold I don't like.

What's your journey like?

The factory is only a two-minute walk down the road.

Describe your work environment

Most of the time is spent on site. Yesterday we were taking down a steel chimney that was no longer needed at an army base in Wilton just outside Salisbury, and before that we were putting up a chimney on a boiler at a paper mill in Cheltenham.

What do you do for lunch?

We are supposed to have an hour, but when you have a crane on site which is hired by the day you have to work through to get rid of it as soon as possible. Sometimes I go out and buy sandwiches and some sites have a canteen where you can get a hot meal.

What stresses you out most at work?

I find it hard to control the 16ft metal ladders; they are difficult to balance in the wind. Everyone seems to expect me to be frightened of heights but I'm not.

What are the perks?

I absolutely hate working inside. This job allows me to work in the open.

What are your hours?

Forty, but there is lots of overtime when I'm on site. In summer we work at night and weekends. One month I took home an extra pounds 300 which was great.

How much holiday do you take?

Twenty-one days a year, I think.

What do you do after work?

I watch soaps like Brookside and EastEnders, go to the pub, go for walks. Sometimes I spend time with my boyfriend, Mark, but because he's a lorry driver I don't see much of him. I used to cook but don't bother much now. Toast and take-aways are more likely these days.

What's the first thing you do when you get home?

Have a quick cup of tea and take a shower.

How do you feel on a Sunday night?

The telly's usually good, so I don't think about work.