From education to employment

Should ‘The Apprentice’ be axed?

We may have enjoyed watching hopeful contestants squirm in the boardroom during last night’s final, but two thirds of the nation believe the TV series does an absolute disservice to true apprentices

Each year we see 18 hopeful entrepreneurs enter the boardroom with the hope that Lord Sugar will believe in them enough to invest £250,000 in their idea, enduring weeks of gruelling tasks to prove themselves worthy of the financial favour.

This series we have seen Alan’s candidate’s film and direct car adverts, groom dogs, conduct fashion shows, drag tourists around Bruges – they have even flipped burgers on the streets of London. There really is no area of business that has been left untouched for Alan Sugar’s new potential business partner, and whilst these tasks make ‘hilarious’ entertainment – they seemingly make a mockery of the people on the show and being an apprentice.

The programme ultimately implies that having an attitude and being ‘vocal’ is the key to career success, but in reality these are attributes that are more likely to concern employers about a candidate than impress them. What employers want (and apprenticeships encourage) is collaboration, work ethic and the ability to learn – stereotypically not running around the city bartering with shop owners.

New research released today from Arch Apprentices revealed that 60% of viewers believe that the TV programme does a disservice to real apprenticeships by showing them in a negative light, leaving the organisation to question whether the TV show deserves its name at all.

In fact, the term ‘apprenticeships’ became protected in the Enterprise Act in 2017.  It was stated that there was a greater risk that the term could be misused and applied to lower-quality courses – causing a negative impact on growth.*

The term ‘degree’ is similarly protected in legislation, so protecting the term ‘apprenticeship’ in the same way ensured that the qualification is viewed with the same regard as higher education.

Post the apprenticeship levy, employers are being asked to sit up and take notice of this important and innovative method of learning in the workplace, particularly at a time when young people need viable routes into great careers. Worryingly, the show could be having a damaging effect on the take up of apprenticeships, with younger generations most likely to say the show gave them a negative impression. 

So with another season over, what does this mean for the future of the TV show? Should the show be stripped of its title? Or is it time for Lord Sugar to be fired?

Arch Apprentices Co-Founder Ben Rowland, said: “Apprenticeships are fast becoming the most secure – and certainly most cost-effective – route for people starting out to turbo-charge their careers in amazing companies from John Lewis to Google to Omnicom.  “The Apprentice” is beginning to look a bit laboured and out of touch with this reality – but watched as it still is by a large TV audience, it nonetheless risks creating a wrong and damaging impression, in particular to teachers and parents who might be unaware of the amazing changes that have happened to real apprenticeships.”

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