The Real Apprentice: 5 celebrities who started as an apprentice

Fashion designers, TV presenters, and celebrity chefs who all started out as an apprentice

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Lord Sugar's Apprentices have been unveiled ahead of the new series, which starts next week. Now we can all look forward to 12 weeks of watching arrogant ambition turn to shambolic desperation and grovelling in the boardroom. Many of the previous winners have been shockingly successful (although not necessarily within the Sugar empire), and many more have launched TV careers on the back of the series, but the humiliating process is no advert for apprenticeships.

Fortunately, we don't need to rely on this year's contestants - which include a burlesque dancer and hypnotherapist who runs a matchmaking service - to become standard-bearers for the merits of apprenticeships, because we already have some brilliant examples of the incredible heights former apprentices can scale. We reveal five celebrities who started out with an apprenticeship.

Alexander McQueen
The internationally renowned fashion designer left school at the age of 16 with one O-Level (in art). However, he had already started making dresses for his sisters, and was sufficiently keen to persuade a firm of Savile Row tailors to give him a job as an apprentice tailor. He moved quickly through the ranks and the big names of Savile Row - which may account for his reputation for having a strongly tailored look to his collections. He so appreciated what he learned that he completed a second apprenticeship - with theatrical costume designer Angels and Bermans.

John Frieda
The hairdresser and hair products mogul got an early start in his career, by becoming an apprentice at his father's hair salon. After a tough training regime of washing hair, sweeping the floor, and practicing on cash-strapped models, he was ready to launch his own salon and start a hair care brand.

Jamie Oliver
With a father in the catering business, Oliver got a head start in the kitchens of the gastropub where he grew up. At the age of 16 he studied Hospitality and Catering at Westminster Catering College, and then served as an apprentice in France. On his return he went to work for Antonio Carluccio, before spending three and a half years at the River Cafe - which is where he was first spotted by the media. He is such a proponent of apprenticeships that he built his Fifteen brand on the employment and training of apprentices.

Ross Brawn
Ross Brawn OBE started out as a mechanical craft apprentice for the UK Atomic Energy Authority. He completed his apprenticeship and was employed by March Engineering. It was his move onto their Formula 3 team that gave him his break in motorsports. He soon went from there to the Williams team. Career highlights included running his own team, and heading up the Mercedes team before his retirement last year.

Alan Titchmarsh
Before he was a TV presenter he was a renowned gardener, who got a start as an apprentice with Ilkley Parks Department. He went from there to study horticulture, and while he was studying for his Diploma he got a job at Kew. He rose through the ranks there before being picked up by the media.

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Apprentice Star Gets Baking


Unfortunately, apprenticeship is not always the answer. There are also several high-profile names who didn't exactly shine during their years as an apprentice. Here are five celebrities who discovered their talents lay elsewhere:

Alex Ferguson
Ferguson was an apprentice tool worker in a shipyard while he made his way as a part time footballer. In the end it was the football that stuck rather than the tool working.

Billy Connolly
Connolly is famously a failed boiler maker, after completing a five year apprenticeship at the Glasgow shipyards he dropped out to become a folk singer - and eventually decided to try his hand at making people laugh.

Ozzy Osborne
Osbourne left school at 15, and before becoming a hell raiser, he tried his hand at a number of things - including being a plumber's apprentice, an apprentice toolmaker, and a burglar. He eventually formed a band in 19767, and decided it suited him better.

Michael Caine
Caine held down a number of jobs in his early career, but it was after he returned from National Service that he decided to become a plumber's apprentice to help ends meet while he followed his acting dream. He was two years into the apprenticeship - and shaping up to be a promising plumber - when he broke into the movies and left it all behind.

Elvis Presley
But perhaps the most famous failed apprentice of all time is Elvis Presley. He started working at Crown Electric in April 1954, and planned to become an electrician if the singing didn;t work out. However, within six months he had recorded his first song and electricity took a back seat.

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