Apprenticeships can be found in almost every career sector; from food to acting, fashion to sport. Having also been around for centuries, there’s been a few famous apprentices over the years. We’ve made a list of familiar faces, all of whom got their start with an apprenticeship, proving that they’re not only versatile but can also lead to massively successful careers.
1. Stella McCartney
Child of photographer Linda and former Beatle Paul, Stella McCartney developed an interest in fashion when she was young. She’d designed her first jacket by 13, and a few years later interned for Christian Lacroix. Her career properly began however with an apprenticeship with a tailor on Saville Row. She picked up all the skills needed that would see her one day be labelled as “Fashion Royalty.” And she is now considered one of the most successful fashionistas in the world. She designed the Team GB kit for the London 2012 Olympics and most recently designed the wedding dress for Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
2. Sir Ian McKellen
After an outing to see Peter Pan when he was 3, Ian McKellen developed a strong interest in the arts. Examples of this include his Christmas present when he was 9; a fold-away miniature theatre stage. He attended Cambridge, studying English, but in his time there he took part in 23 plays. After graduating he took up an apprenticeship at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. He has since gone on to be a noted member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He’s also acted in massive film franchises the X-Men and Lord of the Rings. Additionally, he has found time to advocate for LGBT rights. Oh, and he was knighted in 1991.
3. Jamie Oliver
The third of our famous apprentices is Jamie Oliver. Leaving school with only 2 GCSE’s and an NVQ in home economics, Oliver had always known his passion lay outside of academia. His parents owned a pub, and he’s helped out in the kitchen from a young age. After leaving school, he enrolled at Westminster Catering College. Then a stint in France to study methods of French cookery. He then returned to the UK and became an apprentice for Antonio Carluccio, where he learned about Italian cooking that has made him famous. Along with his TV shows, his restaurants and his campaign for healthy school meals, Jamie has also set up an apprenticeship of his own at Fifteen Cornwall.
4. John Frieda
Arguably the most famous hairdresser currently working, John Frieda got his start as a humble hairdressing apprentice in the Salon of Leonard in the late 1960s. He quickly worked his way up, and in 1976, opened his first salon with fellow prodigy Nicky Clarke. Two years later, he opened the first John Freida salon. Then, in 1988, he started selling his small hair-care product line in Boots. Realising that the American market was largely untapped, he moved to Manhattan and started developing haircare products. He is now a business tycoon worth over £150million.
5. Sir Alex Ferguson
This Scottish football manager has won more trophies than any other manager in the history of football. For this, he is considered one of the best managers of all time. He was playing football from a young age but was of the mindset that he should know a trade. He took an apprenticeship as a tool-worker in the shipyards, and said of his experience “it is only when you had the opportunity to have an apprenticeship did you realise the long-term benefit. Anyone who had that experience will have appreciated the skills they learned.” This is a message that he stuck by. Through success in the game, he set up an apprenticeship program of his own at Manchester United. Over the years he’s taken on apprentices such as Ryan Giggs and David Beckham; yep, he was an apprentice too!
6. Henry Ford
Henry Ford was the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He left home at 16 after the prospect of running his family farm left him disillusioned. Ford gained his knowledge of machinery by working as an apprentice machinist in Detroit. Plans were developed not long after for a “horseless carriage” which became the first car, the Ford Quadricycle.
He introduced the Ford Model T in 1906, the first car that was widely available and affordable. One of his biggest achievements was developing the moving assembly line, which revolutionised the manufacturing process, and became the benchmark for mass production.
7. Leonardo Da Vinci
The last of our famous apprentices is the Renaissance man himself, Leonardo Da Vinci, of Mona Lisa fame, who got his start as an apprentice in Florence at the age of 14. His time in the studio nurtured his creativity, which covered areas of interest including drawing, painting, sculpture, invention, maths, science, music, engineering and more. He went on to create several masterpieces, from The Last Supper and his Vitruvian Man to conceptualising flying machines, solar power, and an early calculator.