Apprentices are more than a reality show, Lord Sugar

17th June 2016 at 00:00

I AM, and always have been, a huge advocate of apprenticeships. I started my career as an apprentice and I owe my business to learning a trade in this way. A large percentage of my workforce are apprentices and they are invaluable to my company. What’s more, I feel it would be criminal not to offer opportunities like this to young people when I have the chance to.

I can only hope that Lord Sugar’s recent appointment as enterprise tsar by the government helps to raise the profile of apprenticeships even further – and removes some of the stigma around the term. An apprenticeship is just as worthwhile a career path as a degree – it’s time this was recognised.

I have been critical of Lord Sugar’s BBC television show The Apprentice and its gameshow antics. Despite this, I can’t deny that I respect him as a businessman – he’s successful and has done it all off his own bat. But as a TV show, it sends out the wrong message.

I believe the term “apprentice” is so vitally important to young people today that it should be trademarked and only used in the proper way. A group of entrepreneurs, who are already in established jobs, arguing over the price of fish under the umbrella of a poncey Latin team name doesn’t represent the hard graft and commitment that goes into an apprenticeship. Lord Sugar simply must keep the entertainment factor as far removed as possible from the very real, very important task at hand.

That being said, there is no question that Lord Sugar has a great business brain and he’s hopefully an inspiration to young people across the country.

The first time he held this title was as enterprise tsar in Gordon Brown’s government. Frankly, the approach to apprenticeships at that time was little more than empty promises. This time around, with the backing of skills minister Nick Boles and business secretary Sajid Javid, I believe that the target of creating 3 million apprentices by 2020 can – and will – be achieved.

Lord Sugar’s next task is to ensure that the apprenticeships created are high-quality training opportunities that make a difference to young lives and the economy in years to come.

He also has to communicate the difference between a real, worthwhile apprenticeship and the somewhat fantastical tasks on his TV show.

There’s no question that he has a great deal of influence and the fact that he has chosen to wield this in a positive manner can only be good news. But there is still much work to be done to convey the opportunities that an apprenticeship can offer – and make sure that targets are met.

Charlie Mullins is the chief executive officer of Pimlico Plumbers @PimlicoPlumbers

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