Hard cell for the workers

9th May 1997 at 01:00
JOB BANK. BBC2. Fridays 1.00-1.20pm. April 18 to June 13. Age range: 14+.

Of the many good moments in Job Bank, a new series of 16 ten-minute films on different careers, the best comes in the film on prison work. Speaking from inside a van, prison officer Tish Vadher explains the presence of the prisoner seated next to him.

"Today, we're taking Dave to hospital for an appointment. I always enjoy the opportunity to leave prison for a while, and I expect he enjoys it as much as I do," he says. He then looks at Dave. Slowly, Dave returns his gaze. He wears the expression of a man who would rather be seated between the Kray twins with his feet in a concrete block.

Tish has already spoken of the stresses of prison life, and here we see one of them, entirely un-rehearsed and unexpected. The animosity between inmates and officers, admits Tish, is probably the worst part of a job he otherwise loves. Dave's face is all the proof that is needed.

Aimed mainly at GNVQ and PSHE students but deserving of a far wider audience, Job Bank allows previously untried presenters to explain what their jobs involve, what they do and don't like about them, and to provide details of pay and prospects. Though brief, each film is pacey, stylish and packed with information on jobs as varied as countryside warden, stable hand, hotel worker and architect. Each film ends with a contact number for further advice. As students are only too keen to point out, some careers programmes are plain boring. Not these, though.

Which is not to say they are faultless. While they do try to be honest - a supermarket worker tells of friends' complaints that he pongs of the fish he serves during the day - some of the films still mislead a little. The film on trainee motor technician Michelle Mercer is a case in point. Like the other presenters, Michelle talks us through her working week, describes training opportunities, asks her manager what it takes to get on in the job, and generally joshes with her fellow workers. Michelle looks very happy, as well she might in a workshop apparently cleansed of the sexism so common in other such places.

But there are few slips in a series that pleases as much for its presenters as for its visual appeal. Not only have the producers found some rather unconventional personalities, they have also coaxed some excellent performances from their subjects.

A young woman health and safety inspector, as forceful with tough building-site workers as she is confident with the camera, a breezy but patently dedicated paramedic and, arguably of greatest potential benefit, an ambitious, articulate black airline pilot - each shows what is possible given sufficient talent, energy and optimism. As careers programmes go, these ones are just the job.

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