This film is part of Free

A Job to Be Done

Hard work on the home front: the story of the 'reserved occupations'.

Government sponsored film 1940 10 mins


"Behind every man in the fighting forces there must be six workers". This quietly fascinating film tells the story of those workers in the 'reserved occupations' and how civilian manpower is being organised, directed and trained by the state and other bodies. Although it's a little on the stiff side, the film's depiction of the work of employment centres and training agencies is unique and interesting. Note at 07:43 the surprising presence of a man of South Asian ethnicity among the workers being trained.

Stylistically, the film blends specially-filmed material with library shots, and alternates narrated sequences with scenes recorded using live sound and non-actors (i.e. real workers, employers and civil servants) portraying typical situations. These staged scenes are predictably awkward but nevertheless intriguing authentic records, if only in snatches, of wartime employment and training environments. The film was made by Shell's famous Film Unit which, for the course of the war, was put to the service of government rather than corporate information needs. It was directed by Donald Alexander, later founder of the National Coal Board's film unit (note the section in this film dealing with coalmining, a subject that had long fascinated him). This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.