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Alistair Stafford

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Top ten celebrity apprentices

First published date December 20 2013 Amended date March 09 2015

When you see an actor star in the leading role in a film or a musician celebrating their latest number one hit, it may seem like they’ve been in the industry all of their lives. It’s the same when you read about a multi-millionaire businessperson, as you assume that they’ll have spent years studying at university to reach the top of their profession. However, there’s a huge list of examples of famous faces that have started their road to fame and fortune by taking an apprenticeship.

From sportsmen to musicians and from presenters to cooks, there’s a long line of star names that started their careers as an apprentice. With so many recognisable faces starting their careers with an apprenticeship, see who has made our top 10 celebrity apprentice shortlist: 


Bill Connolly – The Scot had a tough start to his working career before becoming an award-winning, globetrotting stand up comic. Although it was always Connolly’s ambition to work in comedy, he first spent several years working as a boilermaker in one of Glasgow’s many shipyards. It was only once his welding was over that he started taking folk singing more seriously, which paved the way for a successful career on stage. 


Gordon Ramsay – Before the swearing TV chef’s career rocketed, The F Word star began his cookery career in the mid 1980s by enrolling on a hotel management apprenticeship at North Oxfordshire Technical College, now part of the Oxford and Cherwell Valley College. Nearly 30 years on, the multi-Michelin star holder can boast being heavily involved in dozens of restaurants worldwide and has a hectic diary of television appearances. 


Alan TitchmarshThe green-fingered Yorkshireman didn’t become TV’s gardening guru overnight, as straight from school he spent over three years as an apprentice gardener for his nearby Ilkley council. Titchmarsh went on to study horticulture at what’s now known as Shipley College, before making his break in the media industry, where for over three decades he’s been giving his expert opinions on TV, radio and in numerous gardening books.


Sir Alex Ferguson – Back in 1950s Scotland, the full-time academies for budding footballers to train didn’t exist, leaving the rising starts to learn a trade elsewhere. Prior to becoming the most successful manager in British football history at Manchester United, Sir Alex spent nearly five years juggling his time between being a promising striker at lower league Queens Park with his toolmaker apprenticeship at a typewriter factory in Glasgow’s shipyard. 


Elvis Presley When the music charts were starting to grow in popularity in the 1950s, the King was learning to become an electrician, helping him get an apprenticeship at an electric company while attempting to break in to the music industry. Presley left his career as a sparky ‘All Shook Up’ soon after, quickly becoming a chart topping success both across the pond and here in the UK.


Alexander McQueen - The worldwide respected fashion designer is proof that disappointing exam results shouldn’t be the end for pursuing your career ambitions, as McQueen left school with just one ‘O’ Level to his name. An apprenticeship as a tailor helped the four-time British Designer of the Year gain experience in the industry, before progressing to launch his own fashion label, which still performs well more than three years since his death. 


Ozzy Osbourne – The Black Sabbath star was the jack of all trades during his teenage years, working as an apprentice plumber among other jobs before taking up his heavy metal stardom. Solo work followed, while his colourful use of language helped create his own TV show, The Osbournes, with wife Sharon, daughter Kelly and son Jack.


Jamie Oliver – Long before the Naked Chef was getting angry at kids being fed turkey twizzlers, Oliver started his road to the culinary hall of fame as a catering apprentice while studying at Westminster Kingsway College. Several TV shows later, the former face of Sainsbury’s now has an apprentice scheme of his own to help disadvantaged teens get cookery training.


Ross Brawn – The F1 engineer began life in the fast lane with a mechanical craft apprenticeship, before rapid promotions through the motorsport divisions saw him progress in to Formula One. Brawn helped mastermind constructors titles for both Benetton and Ferrari, before taking control of his own team, guiding the appropriately named Brawn GP to the 2009 title. 


Sir Michael Caine – Like many aspiring actors, the Italian Job star had to juggle various jobs with his early acting training. Caine spent nearly two years as a plumbing apprentice after finishing his National Service, before finally getting regular film work. Nearly 60 years on, the Cockney has clocked up more than a century of film appearances and huge numbers of acting awards. 


Alistair Stafford

With a BA in Journalism, Alistair has a passion for writing, especially if it's got anything to do with football or other sports. In his spare time, he's big on exercise and he once completed the London Marathon.