Young Apprentice: feel the love

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 27 October 2011

We’re back in the boardroom with Sir Alan Sugar and his hench people — Nick Hewer and Karren Brady. But it’s not quite business as usual. For a start the candidates are a bunch of teenagers. And then, in his opening pep talk, Lord Sugar says, “I actually love you lot.” Woah there, Alan, steady on. He continues. “I love seeing if you’ve got that spark of genius.”

Aah bless. Perhaps the makers of Young Apprentice have realised that a bunch of 16-year olds might need a bit of nurturing before they are hung out to dry on national television — as they will be, one by one, over the coming weeks.

To be honest, after that brief flicker of humanity, it’s business as usual. Meet the candidates. They are aiming high, they are taking no prisoners, they are talking in clichés.

Let’s hear about the task. It’s ice cream. They have to make it, brand it and sell it at a profit.

Now see how some of the boys can’t operate the ice cream machine very well. And notice how the girls are rubbish at maths and can’t get their margins sorted. Watch the teams try to flog their ice creams at Southend and Chessington. Marvel at how the producers make it look as though the girls have lost even though they have, in fact, won.

The boys make a profit of £559.29 while the girls make £708.34.

This is all familiar ground. And the lesson is simple — get your prices right. The boys asked too little for their ice creams. The girls, meanwhile, demonstrated their upselling skills, adding expensive toppings and charging their unsuspecting customers more. They even charged 20p for a cone!

But what does this actually prove? The trouble with giving these young people — and indeed anyone — two days to set up a profitable business is that it does not allow any time for learning from your mistakes. Experience is a wonderful teacher.

And while they clearly need to brush up on their business skills, what the programme reveals more than anything is their appalling lack of people skills as they talk over each other and shriek into their smartphones from the back of cabs.

So the boys go down to the losers’ café for a cuppa in a polystyrene cup. I swear they used to have actual crockery. Is this a sign of the times? Or are the programme makers trying to make the losing team feel even more depressed?

Team leader Harry picks two scapegoats to come back into the boardroom with him. James is a big mouth from Northern Ireland (reminiscent of Jim in the last series) and Mahamed has struggled to be heard throughout the task. Poor Mahamed is so desperate to cover himself in glory that he claims it was him that came up with the pirate theme for their ice cream stall. James, whose idea it was, is having none of it.

Lord Sugar is almost squirming as he fires Mahamed — I think he actually feels bad. But then he turns to James and says with menace, “Watch it, OK? Watch it. Because I am watching you.”

It’s a tough world out there kids and you might as well get used to it.

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