0 7 mins 12 yrs

BBC One’s multi-award-winning and critically acclaimed business entertainment series The Apprentice returns for an eighth series on Wednesday 21 March, as the latest line-up of budding business partners face Lord Sugar in the battle for boardroom supremacy.

From across the UK and Ireland, this year’s selection of entrepreneurial hopefuls have come to London to face the biggest challenge of their careers – fighting it out in a business battle over 12 tough tasks to impress multi-millionaire tycoon, Lord Sugar.

The candidates’ CVs reveal everything from a professional wrestler, a show jumper and a shark diver to entrepreneurs in fields as varied as architecture, beauty, bridal, technology, fine wine and greengrocery.

Selected for their burning passion for business and naked ambition, only one can succeed in proving they have the commercial insight and business sense to be worthy of entering into a partnership with Lord Sugar as the winner of The Apprentice 2012.

In business, times are tough and investment is hard to come by. The 16 ambitious applicants are determined to win the backing they need, but to get funding they’ll face the fight of a life time. On offer, 40 years of experience and a quarter of a million pounds.

From market stall to market leader, Lord Sugar is a global success story. Willing to invest when others won’t, he’s now on the hunt for a new business partner. Once again he is putting his money on the line, offering the winner both the opportunity to be his partner and an investment to the value of £250,000 founded on the basis of their business idea.

Failure is not an option and errors will not be excused as Lord Sugar wastes no time in informing his 16 possible partners of his high expectations: “This is not about a job anymore and I’m not looking for a friend, if I wanted a friend I’d get a dog. I’m looking for a partner, the ‘Marks’ to my ‘Spencer’, the ‘Lennon’ to my ‘McCartney’. This is about me investing £250,000 into a business with one of you and I’m expecting you, as the so called entrepreneurs, to make the money for me.

“Some of you may come here with preconceived plans of how this is going to play out. Let me give you a warning, don’t try and hide. We’re not playing ‘Where’s Wally’ here. I’m not looking for Lord Lucan, I’m looking for somebody who is going to put themselves forward and show me that they have got the aggression and business acumen to be my partner.”

To help him keep an eye on how the candidates perform over the 12 challenging tasks, Lord Sugar will be aided once again by his trusted advisors Nick Hewer and Karren Brady.

It will be the candidates’ plan and Lord Sugar’s money, but in order to get it a punishing selection process awaits. This year’s candidates face a series of demanding tasks, each designed to push their skills to the limit.

Although the candidates will live in a lavish four storey Bayswater townhouse and be given a taste of the high-flying life they dream of, the weeks ahead will be anything but glamorous as they roll up their tailored sleeves and embark upon weeks of hard graft with only one of them emerging victorious. Their rivalry and competitiveness will be unearthed as the 16 challengers vie for the chance to go into business with one of the world’s most renowned business moguls.

Episode one follows the candidates as they are split into two teams, boys versus girls, with Nick and Karren closely monitoring their every move. Appropriately, in the first task the prospective candidates must start with a blank canvas. The teams are set the challenge of starting their own print businesses. They must buy £500 worth of bare materials, from mugs to mouse mats, create designs to print on to them and then sell their unique products to the public. The decision of what products to choose and which customers to target is theirs but only one factor will be considered in the first boardroom showdown – who has made the most profit?

Series eight will see personalities clash and tempers soar as the cut-throat competition gets tougher with every task.

With each task based on new business opportunities, the candidates will design a new household gadget, produce a condiment, open a junk shop, create a fitness DVD, represent urban/street artists and promote English sparkling wine.

For these elite professionals it is make or break time in the most daunting challenge they will ever face. With gripping boardroom showdowns and opinionated candidates, this series promises to be the most intense and unpredictable yet.

Sixteen potential business partners. Twelve tough weeks. One life changing opportunity. Lord Sugar’s search for his new business partner is about to begin…

Ultimate fan show, The Apprentice: You’re Fired! will also be making a welcome return to BBC Two immediately after the main show with host Dara O Briain in the chair. Each week the fired candidate is interrogated by business experts, celebrity fans of the show and a studio audience of viewers.

The BBC Apprentice website will feature clips from each episode and exclusive footage of each of the 16 candidates, filmed during the selection process. Radio 1 DJ Matt Edmondson will be giving his take on each episode with exclusive funny clips. Viewers will also be able to catch up with events surrounding the show on the official Apprentice Twitter and Facebook pages.

The Apprentice is a Boundless production for BBC One. Michele Kurland and Peter Moore are the Executive Producers, Cate Hall is Series Producer. Jo Wallace is the Executive Editor for the BBC.

The Apprentice will air on BBC One and BBC One HD and will be repeated on BBC Three.

Just click on the images to enlarge.

Thanks to BBC/Talkback Thames/Jim Marks