Who will be Sir Alan Sugar’s Junior Apprentice?

Kate Craig-Wood, MD of Memset, doesn’t miss a beat: "Absolutely," she says. "Kids thrive on competition, and it is something that is being squeezed out of their schooling due to pervasive ‘nannyism’. Exposing them to a harsh world in their young adulthood will give them a taste of what could be; enough for them to see if they have the mettle.

"Furthermore, in my opinion most young people could do with a little taste of what hard work actually means, and the reality that you don’t get anywhere by working 37.5 hours per week. You cannot teach entrepreneurship in a school. It is something born of a combination of innate personality type, drive and parental upbringing. Showing them what it takes, and the potential rewards, through a programme like this is perhaps just what is needed."

Tom Ellis has been running businesses since he was 16. He became the sole importer of Leroux-Mineau Grand Cru champagne to the UK at 20 and will turn over £80,000 this year. He, too, is a fan of the concept for the Junior Apprentice. "It is fantastic that Sir Alan Sugar is looking for a Junior Apprentice," he says. "I know if this was available when I was 16 or 17, then I would have signed up. I started my business, First Class Products, when I was 16 and believe this was a perfect time to start. We need more young people to be thinking about business at this age.

"Of course, the process is gruelling and difficult, but this is what the real world is like. In the difficult financial times that we are in today we need young people who are determined to succeed in business and this is another way in which young people will be given the opportunity to do this. I will be tuning in and I wish all the young people the very best of luck."

"I’m sure the teenagers in question won’t be exploited by the show.," says Postcode Anywhere MD, Guy Mucklow. "The bottom line is these young people are only a couple of years from the workplace. We need to be nurturing entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. Just like their present-day counterparts, the future Richard Bransons and Sir Alans won’t wait until they’re 30 before dipping their toes into the world of business. This country needs to do so much more and build on the work of organisations like Young Enterprise to celebrate our powerful British entrepreneurial spirit. I see no better way to stimulate debate on the issue than with a prime-time TV show – let’s just hope the producers aren’t too tempted by sensationalist style over substance, because while it’s entertaining to see adults get it so horribly wrong time and time again, it’s not a good idea to poke fun at kids."

Brad Rosser, founder of the Better, Stronger, Faster Group and erstwhile right hand man to Sir Richard Branson sounds a note of caution: "The life of an entrepreneur is hard but rewarding and those with the appetite must be coached into the real world of an entrepreneur. For me this does not mean a lot of shouting and instant success. The Apprentice is great TV but bears little resemblance to the real world of an entrepreneur. I would worry it would at best give the wrong impression and at worst put some promising entrepreneurs off." Chris Morling, MD of money.co.uk, agrees with Rosser: "Any initiative that raises awareness of the skills needed to be successful in business has to be applauded. It seems a shame that we have to rely on popular TV entertainment like the Junior Apprentice to bring these issues to the fore. However, it will be interesting to see how the young candidates cope with challenging tasks and although some may struggle, I have no doubt that all the candidates will learn a lot about themselves as well as getting a flavour of what it takes to become an entrepreneur. I am a big fan of The Apprentice and I am confident that Junior Apprentice will be successful. I am looking forward to seeing some raw talent, rather than just ‘interesting personalities’!"

Anthony Ganjou, MD of natural media company CURB, says: "If the applicants are committed to pursuing entrepreneurship as a career choice, this could be a highly effective way of giving them a crash course in what it takes to make it. Although, this is ONLY applicable if the editorial focus of the programme is more heavily weighted on the brilliance of the youngsters applied in the right business manner, rather than slating any failure and creating unnecessary drama. There are a variety of ways to encourage young people to get into business, but ultimately it comes down to the mentality of the individual in wanting to commit themselves at an age when developing their own business is low on their life priority list."

"Of course young people should experience the rough and tumble of business," concludes Stefan Lepkowski of the Karol Marketing Group. "It’s the real world and the sooner they learn that ‘the cotton box’ environment of university and living at home is a luxury, the better. The biggest inhibitor to young people’s success is that they are brought up to feel the world owes them a living. It doesn’t! If they are willing to put themselves forward as an apprentice good on them. If it is a bit tough along the way, well, hopefully they’ll learn some life skills."

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