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What makes a good Apprentice?

By Howard Ebison (BSc Mathematics and Business Studies 2005)

Published October 2010

Howard Ebison, Warwick graduate and former Apprentice candidate shares his thoughts on “What makes a good business apprentice?”
Howard EbisonThe Basics

It sounds so simple, but it’s a fact that the basics really do matter in the workplace. Business involves human interaction, which unavoidably involves opinions, personalities and preferences, and the first impression will contribute heavily towards this. Look the part, be punctual, and maintain your manners. It’s easy to get passionate about things you care about, but this should never be at the expense of professionalism – watch any episode of The Apprentice and you’ll see exactly how this shouldn’t be done.

People Talk

Whether it’s senior management in a large corporation or a handful of colleagues in a small business, just remember that you and your work will be discussed and appraised, with and without your presence. To help the chance of promotion or added responsibility you need to ensure they are saying good things, and delivering your objectives is the simplest way to achieve this. You can’t argue with results.


Any professional job carries the risk of endless meetings, which frequently obstruct you from doing your day to day job. When arranging a meeting ask yourself “What do you want to get out of this?”, and ensure you have a clear answer before the meeting starts. Stephen Covey (author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) suggests we should “Begin with the end in mind” which is exactly this ethos. Don’t be scared to send people an agenda or a list of questions you wish to discuss in advance of the meeting. This really helps reduce the number of meetings, and reduce the length of the meetings that are left!

Customer Focus

Who are you engaging in your products or services? Externally (consumers), who is buying what your company offers? And what is going to make them choose you over anyone else? Internally (colleagues), what is it that gets the work that you need doing on top of your colleague’s pile? Sending someone an email is probably the least effective way to do this.

The Bigger Picture

It is essential that you understand the wider context. This applies on so many levels. Understanding the market place in which your business operates is the simplest, but look beyond the obvious. My first job after graduating from Warwick was running pubs in London, but my competition reached much further than other pubs and restaurants. The weather, supermarkets, terrorist threats, TV scheduling all impacted my businesses.

Howard Ebison graduated from the University of Warwick in 2005 with a BSc in Mathematics and Business Studies. He joined Mitchells & Butlers on their graduate scheme and trained to become an Area Manager sponsored through his CIMA qualification. In 2009 he appeared as a candidate on Series 5 of The Apprentice and was fired in Week 10 of 12. After The Apprentice, he was approached to join aviation hospitality business, No.1 Traveller, as General Manager, Commercial, where he currently works.