Charlie Mullins
Charlie Mullins, Prime Minister David Cameron and some of the Pimlico Plumbers apprenticesPimlico Plumbers

TV show The Apprentice is a "mockery" and is "really taking the p**s" out of apprenticeships, according to one of the UK's most well-known self-made millionaires and former apprentices.

Charlie Mullins, the boss and founder of London-based plumbing firm Pimlico Plumbers, told IBTimes UK Lord Sugar's hit series has "halfwits" for contestants.

"You've got business wannabes/reality stars making a mockery of all the hard work the government have put into promoting apprenticeships," Mullins said.

"You've got a load of halfwits running around London trying to please a Lord. Most of them I wouldn't put in charge of a broom."

He added: "The show is really taking the p**s out of the word 'apprentice'. The word has really come back big time since the Conservatives have come into power.

"Maybe it's good TV-watching for people who just want to have a laugh but there's more real life in The Only Way Is Essex."

Mullins, who dropped out of school with no qualifications and did a four-year plumbing apprenticeship, made the comments ahead of the launch of the tenth series of BBC 1's The Apprentice.

The programme sees candidates battle to win the chance of becoming Sugar's business partner and receive a £250,000 ($398,197, €314,486) investment.

Mullins said he respects Sugar as a businessman but argued the show was "sending out the wrong message".

"It makes our life so much harder," Mullins said. "You have to do a proper apprenticeship to work for us."

Mullins, who is reportedly worth around £60m, is not alone in criticising the TV show; Business Secretary Vince Cable has also knocked the programme.

The Liberal Democrat MP told the Daily Telegraph last year the show did not have much to do with actually being an apprentice.

"I know that The Apprentice is designed to be dramatic television viewing but it has very little to do with apprentices – people who are doing a serious piece of vocational training," Cable said.

"I worry that whatever the attractions of the programme as a piece of TV theatre, it gives people a completely false impression about what being an apprentice actually involves."