Apprentice winner Joseph Valente champions apprenticeships

Plumbing business owner Joseph Valente has been crowned the winner of The Apprentice.

Valente, who was expelled from school at 15, called for a boost in vocational training to help disengaged pupils and said he planned to push for more workplace apprenticeships.

After winning Lord Sugar's backing for his business, the 26 year old said: "Apprenticeships are going to be the backbone of this country, and off the back of this journey I'm going to make sure I go out and promote as much as possible how effective apprenticeships are."

Valente started out as an apprentice and went on to found his own plumbing business in Peterborough.

He won Lord Sugar's £250,000 backing and a 50/50 business partnership after seeing off 17 other candidates on the BBC show.

He said: "Maybe they could start earlier, and get kids into work sooner. I plan to start an apprenticeship programme within our business where we recruit employees from situations like from where I've come from."

Valente was expelled after becoming "too disruptive" at school, which he admitted was "fair enough".

He said: "If you're forcing 14, 15-year-old people to do a lesson that they're never going to learn and they constantly play up every single time - rather than keep pushing them into the same direction, why not find an alternative and see what else they can shine at?"

Valente became the 11th winner of The Apprentice after Lord Sugar chose him as a business partner instead of finalist Vana Koutsomitis, who hoped to launch a dating app.

In the boardroom, Lord Sugar said: "It's very difficult, you couldn't get a wider difference between the two businesses."

But after a pitch in front of industry experts and investors, Valente triumphed with his plan to launch Prime Time Plumbers.

After crowning his winner, Lord Sugar said: "Joseph is a great example of what's possible. He turned his life around and decided he was going to go to work and here he is today, a well-deserved winner of The Apprentice and I look forward to him being my business partner.

"I hope it inspires a lot of people to see what is possible in this world."

Valente said from the beginning of the series that Lord Sugar had been his inspiration in business, and impressed during the interview stage by achieving full marks on a quiz about the businessman's autobiography, What You See Is What You Get.

He said: "It has to be Lord Sugar for me. I started my business because of Lord Sugar, because of that book, I got on this journey ... It means the world to me, to be working with him.

"Lord Sugar was just a normal guy. He came from a council estate in London and he just worked very, very hard.

"A lot of people out there still think that you have to have every qualification or degree under the sun to be able to achieve something, but a lot of it does just boil down to ridiculous hard work."