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'The Apprentice candidates are good role models for students'

Jaz Ampaw-Farr, a former teacher and contestant on The Apprentice in 2013, writes:

Saying yes to opportunities and jumping in with both feet has worked out really well for me over the years.

Apart from the time I volunteered to be team leader for the first task on The Apprentice, that is. That particular yes resulted in me being the first candidate to be fired from the ninth series of the show.

As a mum to three children and the owner of a business that provides schools with training on how to improve literacy, I am used to juggling roles, thinking on my feet and dealing with challenging situations on a daily basis. Like many, I watched previous series from the comfort of my sofa and thought, “I could do that”.

Obviously, I was wrong. But I had a go, found it excruciating, got fired and turned the whole experience into something positive.

Teachers might not see Apprentice candidates as good role models, but they are excellent examples of why it’s important to know who you are and to be true to that in every aspect of your life.

When you audition for the show, the production team bombard you with questions about yourself, such as:

“Who do you admire?”
“Describe yourself in seven words.”
“How likely are you to punch another candidate?”

If you’ve ever wanted to know the secret of getting a spot on The Apprentice, the answers are, in order: “Will Smith”, “What you see is what you get” and “Completely unlikely unless heavily provoked or to save the life of a small child”.

However, the question that is asked most often is the one about what your “game plan” is for the show. My answer was to be myself and try my best.

But I didn’t always think that way. Growing up without parents, in and out of foster care, taught me invaluable survival skills. But also I saw lots of opportunities pass me by. I was too poor, too brown, too broken and, like so many children today, my future didn’t look promising.

Everyone agreed I was a failure, except for my teachers at school – that was the only place I received encouragement that went against what I knew to be true about life. Their belief in me and their model of not giving up when the going got tough transformed my mantra from a negative scream of, “Why me?” to a more positive question of, “Hey, why not me?”.

These adults’ insistence on nurturing my talents, their encouragement to see failure as an opportunity to learn and their perseverance in sticking with me when I gave up on myself drastically altered my trajectory. They encouraged me to seize opportunities rather than avoid them in case I failed.

Granted, this often made me want to punch someone.

But as those around me became sucked into drugs and prostitution, I finished school, completed my A-levels and, against all odds, went on to train to be a teacher.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the opportunities I have now to speak in secondary schools and sixth forms to encourage the innovators, not to mention the future Apprentice candidates.

As my old nan used to say: “There are plenty of people out there who think you’re useless. Don’t be one of them.” So look for opportunities, say yes and give it your all. The worst thing that can happen is that you have an experience to learn from.

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