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Celebrity skills experts – or are they?


Monday saw the launch of another skills academy backed by yet another celebrity - this time it's Peter Jones and it's all about entrpreneurialism at the Enterprise Academy. Other celebs that have recently backed skills academies include Theo Pathitis who is a patron of the Retail Skills Academy, while James Caan is sponsoring the iawards (innovation awards) which recgonises and celebrates the best of British innovation in science design and technology. And let's not forget Lord Alan Sugar who has been backing the National Apprenticeship Service. In fact it seems if you are a successful entrepreneur, you can be a celebrity, and if you are a celebrity, you can be a face of the big government skills push. Now I'm not knocking this per se - anything that highlights skills and promotes the need and desirability of these skills to young people or those in desperate need of upskilling is a good thing. However, my cynical brain can't help but feel that we are propagating the notion of celebrity as being the all-achieveing all important goal in life. Gone are the role-models; the mothers and fathers, the teachers or authors, and instead there is the belief that something is only worthy if a soap star, singer or actor is attached to it. Are we simply feeding this celebrity thirst or is this just the way things are done now? Who makes the rules anyway? A case in point: Sadie Frost, Michelle Ryan, Goldie and Samantha Morton are among a host of celebrities who have are putting their name to a government recruitment campaign to tackle the shortage of social workers in the UK. The costly £58m recruitment drive heartstring pullingly-titled 'Help Give Them A Voice,' aims to persuade 5,000 people to take up a career in social care after the Victoria Climbie and Baby P scandals have understandably put people off entering the industry. Again this is a worthy cause but I am I missing something? Was Goldie a social worker before he mastered the decks or was Michelle Ryan (ex-Eastenders actress) undecided about becoming a soap star and nearly opted for a career in the social service? I am not convinced and feel just a little bit disappointed that it has come to this. But all of this begs the question - just because you are famous and successful - does that mean your knowledge is infallible? Aren't all these celebrities simply reading off prompt cards or autocues in the adverts - carefully written words crafted by marketing and PR people? Or does it truly come from the heart? Let's hope these campaigns take off - that the skills academies are full to bursting with young people who want to make a difference - and not because a celebrity told them they should but because they have the force of mind to do it themselves - they just needed a little helping hand.

4 Responses

  1. Celebrity sells
    This is a training website, not a website damming the advertising industry. If a famous person donates there time for a good cause, well good for them. Don’t worry about it, the worlds not the worse for it.

  2. Peter Jones interview

    Thanks for the comment though I feel you missed the point somewhat. As a journalist, I understand better than anyone that celebrity sells, and I also believe that any campaign that brings awareness to worthy causes is justified. However it occured to me that the current rash of ‘well known’ people endorsing anything that is en vogue says more about our thirst for celebrity than a desire to get any genuine expertise. And while this may simply be a sign of the times, it doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like it. Incidentally, I interviewed Peter Jones at the end of last week and I put this very question to him and was pleasently surprised by his responses. I will be posting the interview in the next week or so on site and I would be interested in your thoughts on it.

  3. Enterprise Academy
    I would have thought that Peter Jones was the ideal person to be involved. Reasonably engaging, very articulate, high profile & immensely successful. Whether or not entrepreneurial skills can be trained is a different matter.

  4. Celebritism

    Sometimes people become celebrities because of what they do in real life. Peter Jones has become a celebrity because of Dragons Den, who had heard of Sir John Harvey Jones before his BBC series, Richard Branson rose from being a shop owner to an owner of shops, all this is not because of their celebrity status.

    Some think that because they are celebrities  they can be recognised in other fields, but to my mind it rarely works unless they have a substantial back up team.

    There again, how do you define celebrity?

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