Alan Sugar talks whether Apprentice stars are more switched onto tasks after 15 seasons

The Apprentice: Lord Sugar picks Mark Wright as his winner in 2014

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Lord Alan Sugar has addressed this year’s series of The Apprentice as 16 contenders prepare to compete for a seat at the table. The business magnate discussed whether the new generation of contestants are prepared for the tasks ahead, with it being the 16th series of the BBC favourite.

He also blasted critics who hit out at the participants despite the “extreme pressure”.

Addressing the candidates’ ability to complete the tasks, Lord Sugar told press including “They fall for the same things, the same traps and all that stuff.

“But […] they learn very, very quickly, and that’s a good sign for me, because I’ve got no problem with people that are a little bit naive or inexperienced whatsoever.

“No problem with young people like that.”

The TV personality continued: “What I do have a problem with this is people who don’t learn, don’t pick up, who don’t grasp things.

“And what rings my bells is when you can see these candidates – and we start off with 16 candidates – quite a few of them get it and a lot of people, a lot of commentators who watch the programme – particularly those 35 to 40 year olds – are very quick to criticise.

“‘What a bunch of idiots they are’, ‘what a bunch of idiots – that is wrong’, ‘they’ve done that wrong’.”

Lord Sugar continued: “I wish one day, we could get a group of those people and stick them in the boardroom to see how they would do.

“Because these people are under extreme pressure.

“And that’s what Karren [Brady] quite rightly said, ‘They all want to win,’ so the competition in this is amazing.”

Lord Sugar also explained how the selection process allows for the “right calibre” of contestants to be asked to join the show.

Asked whether he had to put the contenders under pressure, Lord Sugar said: “I’ll say this in the nicest possible way: I have them under control.

“Most of the time they don’t seem to go off the rails.

“The production people are really very careful in ensuring that the right calibre of candidate joins us, and they know exactly how far they can go.”

He also dismissed rumours that he and his aides know who is going to win from the beginning.

The TV star said: “The initial reaction to some of the candidates are, ‘Bl**dy hell, how useless is that one, how useless is this one.’

“But, and it goes without saying, you know, every single year the cream rises to the top.

“The most frequently asked question to us is, ‘Do you already know in the first episode [who will win]?’ No, absolutely not

“And as I said earlier on, they kind of develop as time goes by, and the cream rises to the top.”

The Apprentice returns tonight at 9pm on BBC One.

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