No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The Apprentice: What next?


handshakeAs latest the latest tranche of would-be apprentices do battle under Sir Alan Sugar's critical gaze, Gemma Middleton wonders what the reality-TV show tells us about winning business skills.

The Apprentice has gone from a relatively small show that was first aired in 2005 on BBC 2 to a countrywide phenomenon. It now receives an exceptionally large and diverse audience for its prime time slot on BBC 1, which it has had since 2007; for the young it is probably one of their earliest glimpses at the world of business, albeit not a true representation. We are now on the fifth series and it seems that we as a nation are still loving every minute of it.

The format of the show is a 12-week competition where 15 candidates fight it out through supposedly gruelling business tasks each week. The losing team’s project manager then has to choose two of their colleagues to enter the dreaded boardroom, where one will be fired.

Photo of Gemma Middleton"Whilst confidence is important, being self-aware and prepared to put as much effort into future development is just as important as winning the actual position, if not more so when considering the long-term future."
And the reason why people are willing year on year to put themselves through the rigmarole? A year as Sir Alan Sugar’s apprentice, and a six-figure salary.

As an avid viewer since the very first series, which saw Tim Campbell win the ‘dream prize’, the show has remained relatively the same with one exception; an increased level of drama and a stronger focus on the interpersonal relationships of the contestants. It is maybe for this reason why each year many people believe the standard of the contestants’ business skills gets weaker.

In fact this year’s current contestants have already been written off by the media, with the exception of Phil Taylor; apparently if we believe the media he is the only one out of all 15 candidates with any business nous, yet if this is so how have the others got this far? It can’t all be for comedy value.

The contestants picked for the show are meant to be the crème de la crème of all the thousands of applicants who applied. Sir Alan Sugar himself states that the contestants need to prove they are the best and are not just good at saying the right thing at the right time; it is an interview from hell according to Sugar.

Whether its the cameras or the editing, every week basic business mistakes are made in key areas by these 'top quality' candidates. The skills needed to be successful in business are no secret: solid skills in communication, organisation, management as well as a general understanding of finance. Typically, contestants seem to lack at least one of these. I am sure that I am not the only one having conversations with the TV about how ridiculous some of the decisions are ('pants man' anyone?).

For those who doubt the ability that continuous learning and development brings need not look any further than one of the weekly episodes. To get to that stage in the competition it makes sense to assume that each contestant must have at least the raw essentials to be a success. Even though the show is an entertainment show and one of many reality TV shows out there, the prize is very real; I can’t imagine Sir Alan standing for a hopeless case earning a six-figure salary to do a bad job.

Although the show is an exaggerated look at how business operates, the skills that the winner needs to possess are skills that every type of employer are looking for when filling management positions. Getting the job done is merely the first hurdle, learning the ropes is typically the second and then the many remaining hurdles that we all face surround the need to develop and build the skills needed to do a great job.

Asking for development should be the norm; if it were then the UK’s working population would be incredibly strong. Yet as the candidates show, many people prefer to be the big ‘I am’ across the board, rather than ask for help.

Whilst confidence is important, being self-aware and prepared to put as much effort into future development is just as important as winning the actual position, if not more so when considering the long-term future.

Drumming this into the workforce can only be a good thing and the Apprentice could prove the perfect medium to do so. Who knows, maybe the next big step for the Apprentice TV domination is to actually show the winners at work and the challenges they face in the real world? It would make for some very interesting viewing.

Gemma Middleton is a marketing coordinator at Righttrack Consultancy


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!