Tag Archives: profit

Three Myths of The Young Apprentice

The Young Apprentice is one of the very few programmes I make a point of watching. What’s odd is that I enjoy it even though it spreads three messages that I have a real problem with –

  • Firslty, it gives the impression that there is opportunity out there if ‘you only work hard enough’, when in reality the current crisis means it’s actually very tough to start up a small business or find employment, especially for young people.
  • Secondly, the show spreads the myth of meritocracy – We are typically presented with a range of candidates from all manner of social classes, gender and ethnic backgrounds suggesting equal opps, but in real life class privilege etc. still conspire to subvert genuine talent’s rise to the top.
  • Thirdly the show suggests that making a profit is more important than doing something socially useful, an idea I find odious,

To explore these message one  at a time…

Problematic Message One – Even though we’re in ‘tough economic times’ there’s still opportunity if you work hard enough.

OK Maybe this will come across as a little sad that I’ve done this, but if you calculate the profit per head per task and then divide by 2, you get the ‘day rate’ per candidate. The figures look something like this…

Approximate earnings per day for five tasks in the young apprentice

Task Platinum Odyssey Average per team Average per candiadate Average per candidate per day
Clothes 453 330 391 65 32.5
Cook Books* 7500 800 4150 754 377
Sandwiches 316 91 204 45 22.5
Kids Club** 11000 470 5735 1433 716.5
Womad 370 (sales) 283 (sales) 327 109 54.5
Average per candidate per day 240

*This of course assumes that all books are sold and that candidates receive £1 per book, which I think is a realistic estimate as to royalties on the type of books they produced.

* and ** These two ‘big profit tasks’ of course don’t actually take into account the costs of hiring the following

  • Half a day with the chefs to make the recipes/ half a day with the publishers
  • Half a day with the experts to help with the ideas generation of the kids club, or the costs of the materials for the demonstrations

Also neither of these projects are actually realistic in terms of your average teenager being able to start up such business because of the quality of the ‘laid on contacts’ with industry insiders, and the social desirability of purchasing a young apprentice product of course.

Given the above it might actually make more sense to look at the three ‘realistic’ business a teenager might set up – and for these the results are much worse.

Task Platinum Odyssey Average per team Average per candiadate Average per candidate per day
Clothes 453 330 391 65 32.5
Sandwiches 316 91 204 45 22.5
Womad 370 (sales) 283 (sales) 327 109 54.5
Average per candidate per day 36.50

If this is what the eleven brightest young people in the country can do (plus one hot-housed posh kid with inflated GCSEs) then Socialism help the rest of them is all I can say

Max – Defo the right candidate to go in week 1

Misleading Message Two – In the world of business it doesn’t matter what your class or ethnic background or your gender identity there’s a level playing field. OK I accept that in the apprentice the working classes seem to come good – In fact if anything Lord Sugar seems to have a deep suspicion of the posh – very probably because he’s ended up working with a lot of talent-less individuals who have risen up the ranks because of contacts rather than well, err talent.

In the real world of business what happens is that you need a leg up to be able to get yourself established – this will either mean money from your parents or an internship – often networked into, and in which you work for nothing for some months or even years. For evidence see below…

In addition to this if you’re a female looking to break into business, OK things are changing – but check out these stats from a previous blog of mine

All of this doesn’t stop me finding the apprentice hugely entertaining, I just hope a few people read this and think again about some of the potentially misleading messages it puts out….

Problem Message Three – Profit is more important than social utility

The contestants really have been asked to produce crap this year haven’t they?

Basically just crap – The Wetsuit Kimono

In episode 1, the task was to resell old clothes, which otherwise would have probably gone towards making money for  charity but instead ends up with either the BBC or Alan Sugar or the candidates (Actually I’ve no idea where the money ends up TBH!).  You could in fact argue that taking from charity results in negative social utility.

Episode two saw the candidates producing cook books – With one team producing a student cook book and the other a book which, in a total throwback to the 1980s, ended up with the title ‘the professional woman’. Whatever spin you put on a new cook book – the fact that there are are over 60 000 cookery books currently available on Amazon does suggest we don’t really need any more.

Episode three was all about sourcing a list of ten items for the very inclusive (NOT) Royal Opera House – Sugar putting the youth to work for the benefit of elite (kind of like apprenticeships and workfare).

Episode four revolved around the teams putting on a themed afternoon tea experience and sell them at a Stately Home – resulting in a ‘1940s’ theme and a ‘Mad Hatter’s’ theme – both of which I think we can agree are frankly pretty naff.

In episode five the candidates were required to develop a new kids club in order to attract investors who would potentially buy licenses. I will at this point concede that this venture does, finally, have some kind of genuine social utility – for parents at least.

The product of the most creative young business minds in the UK

Episode six saw the teams developing a new brand of hair spray and hair gel – Possibly the very epitome of products that lack any genuine social use value

In the penultimate episode candidates disturbed the ‘peace and love’ of the Womad festival to sell a combination of a cardboard box toilet and an umbrella seat on the one hand and onesies and camping washing machines on the other. Actually maybe these are even more useless than the hair products?

So of the seven episodes, there is only one potential product or service that has any genuine social utility, and that only for parents wealthy enough to pay for their kids’ extra curricular activities.


The Young Apprentice – Find out More

The BBC – The Young Apprentice 2012

Digital Spy has quite a nice overview of what’s been going on

Sabotage Times – Is Lord Sugar really looking for a new carer?

Unreality TV – Has several posts on the Young Apprentice

The UK government thinks profit for the arms industry is more important than the spread of democracy

You could hardly have missed the wave of revolutionary protests against despotic regimes currently sweeping through North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Hopefully, you’ve been avoiding myopic mainstream news coverage which has increasingly focussed on the evacuation of British citizens ‘stranded’ in Libya – and instead been following via the much more credible radio 4 – or even via social networking sites The latest tweets can be found on this interactive map – although some of them have nothing to do with the protests!

The common theme in these protests is one of ordinary people collectively organizing to overthrow decades old dictatorships or monarchies that have used military force, threatened, actual, or both, to keep themselves in power.  What the people want, at long last, is an end to terror, what they hope for is freedom and democracy.

The most violent confrontations have been witnessed in Libya — and after days of struggle, Gaddafi’s days now seem numbered, and pretty much everyone except for the man himself and his cronies, seems to think this is a good thing. However, over the past 4 years the UK government has played a role in propping him up.

Two power crazed liars that couldn't give a shit about democracy

I’m sure you’ve all seen the video reruns of Tony Bliare pawing Gaddafers back in 2007. What you may not realise is just how much UK companies have profited since 2007 through supplying arms to Gaddafi.

According to the Daily Mail official figures show the UK Government approved at least 75 arms export licences to Libya since 2008, the year after Bliare hugged Gaddafers, licenses worth between £75million and £100million.

According to The Guardian – Between July and September last year alone the UK government granted or amended licences worth up to £182m to sell products to Libya, including “crowd control ammunition”, “teargas/irritant ammunition” and training in teargas/irritant ammunition. Since the election, British firms have sold crowd sniper rifles, tear gas and ammunition to Gaddafi regime.

Another thing you probably don’t know, British citizens, is that your own government, you know, the one you probably didn’t vote for, is extremely active in supporting the business interests of the arms trade in the Middle East.

David Cameron’s recent tour of the region, incorporating Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, highlights this close relationship between the government and British arms companies. The formal purpose of Cameron’s Middle East tour was to boost British business, strengthen security ties and promote political reform, but the fact that Cameron took eight representatives of the arms industry with him  – including reps from the companies  Rolls-Royce and BAe Systems, clearly shows that he supports the rights of British companies to make a profit over the democratic rights of the protectors fighting for their lives in Libya.

This is no surprise, given the importance the Tories place on economic growth and given the importance of the arms industry to the British economy.

ADS, the body that represents UK arms companies, estimates that UK defence exports are worth £7.2bn a year, half of which are sold to the Middle East. 


IDEX 2011 - British companies are well represented
IDEX 2011 - British companies are well represented

But British complicity in Oppression in the Middle East goes far deeper…

Cameron’s Middle East tour coincided with ‘Idex 2011’, the Middle East’s biggest arms fair in Abu Dhabi.  Cameron didn’t attend this in person, instead the British defence minister Gerald Howarth  lead the British delegation

The show of arms was choreographed for the benefit of thousands of arms dealers in dark suits and sunglasses, who marvelled at how it was all synchronised to a booming hip-hop soundtrack. Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from the British company BAe Systems is the largest deal to be made.

Selling arms to the largely undemocratic Middle East is huge business – altogether, the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait — along with Jordan are set to spend US$68 billion (49.6 billion euros) on defense in 2011, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan. Their spending is expected to reach nearly US$80 billion in 2015.

According to Schnews, the UK government is really gung- ho about getting behind the arms industry –

‘”The Government’s arms promotion unit, UK Trade & Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) will be exhibiting at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), The UK arms industry body Aerospace|Defence|Security (A|D|S) claims that 10% of exhibitors will be from the UK and says “our sizable presence at IDEX 2011 shows that we mean business.

One obvious question that springs to mind is this – should our elected representatives be so vocal in supporting the arms industry when there is such an obvious link between the arms industry and political repression?

The answer is just obviously – a resounding NO! These recent events clearly demonstrate where the Torie’s real interests lie –they are clearly not interested in peace or social justice – they are interested in helping big business make even huger profits – even if this means trampling on democratic progress.

What makes me really angry about all of this is the layers of hypocrisy David Cameron is demonstrating – he claims to support the protests in Libya and yet his government has agreed millions of pounds worth of arms sales to Libya, and he claims that government should be reduced in size –  and then invests time and our tax money in supporting the arms trade.

An excellent site for more info on the extent of the British Arms Trade is CAAT – or Campaign Against the Arms Trade. You can sign their petition stating that you think it is not OK for British companies to sell tear gas etc. to despotic regimes.

To end with – a quick list of comments against the arms trade from the CATT website – all of which I agree with –

“Why should we put up with losing jobs, money and educational opportunity when you are still propping up our arms export industry?”

“What really saddens me is siphoning off so much of our best scientific brainpower into the overblown activity of the arms industry.”

“Selling arms to dubious regimes is not just immoral; it’s idiotic. Actions that destabilise any region make the world a more dangerous place for us all and undo any progress made through our humanitarian efforts.”

“The barbaric practice of producing and trading ever more lethal weapons makes a mockery of this country’s claim to being a humane advanced society

Sarah Waldron Campaigns Coordinator at CAAT said:

“It is astounding that the government is still insisting it has a responsible arms export policy while, in the same breath, admitting that it was happy to supply authoritarian regimes with the means to crush dissent. Far from seeking to restrain arms sales, the UK government actively promotes them . While this policy stands there is no prospect of meaningful arms control

These Tories really are the worst kind of scum.