The Apprentice is 'back with a bang' after the pandemic says the contest's frontman Alan Sugar. 

The first episode of the 17th series will jet off a new batch of 18 candidates to Antigua for the opening challenge on Thursday, January 5. 

This year's recruits feature a wide range of hopefuls including a London city banker to a safari guide in South Africa. 

Here's what Sir Alan had to say about the new series and what to expect from this year's show. 

Alan Sugar says The Apprentice is 'bigger than ever' as candidates head to Antigua 

Speaking to the PA news agency, Lord Sugar said: “Last year we were restricted by Covid in what we could do and what we couldn’t do because of the health warnings. So this year, we decided… let’s come back with a big bang.

“So I said: ‘Let’s go somewhere great to really kick off well.’ You should see the the candidates’ faces when I said to them: ‘Right your first task you’re going to Antigua’, that’s wonderful.

“Also for the audience it will be a great kick-off for the process.”

The Amstrad founder, 75, revealed that a number of viewers' favourite tasks will return this series which were not “do-able” during Covid.

The 2023 season will also see the candidates visiting “tremendous places” and celebrating 100 years of the BBC, Sir Alan continued.

“We’re coming back bigger than ever before mainly because we’ve come out of the Covid period… Look forward to the good old Apprentice type of episodes,” he said.

The upcoming series will also see a number of tough challenges on home soil including creating cartoons, exploring the world of male beauty products, hosting immersive events and dabbling in the street food industry.

READ MORE: The Apprentice candidates revealed ahead of TV return this week

READ MORE: What is Lord Sugar's net worth as he returns to The Apprentice?

Meet The Apprentice candidates 2023

The Apprentice has made some steps towards diversity this year with its new batch of candidates.

Safari guide Joseph Phillips has dyslexia and technology recruiter Shazia Hussain has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Hussain said she hoped her appearance on the show will encourage “neurodiversity in business” and prompt more people like her “not to be ashamed of their difference”.

The full 2023 The Apprentice cast list includes:

  1. Avi Sharma
  2. Bradley Johnson
  3. Dani Donovan
  4. Denisha Kaur Bharj
  5. Emma Browne
  6. Gregory Ebbs
  7. Joseph Phillips
  8. Kevin D’Arcy
  9. Mark Moseley
  10. Marnie Swindells
  11. Megan Hornby
  12. Reece Donnelly
  13. Rochelle Anthony
  14. Shannon Martin
  15. Shazia Hussain
  16. Simba Rwambiwa
  17. Sohail Chowdhary
  18. Victoria Goulbourne


Is Claude returning to The Apprentice?

Salisbury Journal: Claude Littner returns to The Apprentice for two episodes in the 2023 series ( BBC/PA)Claude Littner returns to The Apprentice for two episodes in the 2023 series ( BBC/PA) (Image: BBC/PA)

Businessman and Lord Sugar's right-hand man Claude Littner will also make a highly anticipated return to the show.

The TV personality will return for two episodes of the series following his recovery from the injuries he sustained in a serious accident last year.

Littner, 73, who has been an adviser to Lord Sugar on the hit BBC show since 2015, was notably absent from the most recent series after undergoing multiple surgeries following a serious bike accident.

Following the announcement, Claude shared on Twitter that he was "counting down the days" until his return

He was replaced by former Apprentice winner and entrepreneur Tim Campbell for the 2022 series and will join Lord Sugar and Baroness Karren Brady in the boardroom once again this series.

Lord Sugar spoke to PA about Claude's return: “He (Littner) had a terrible accident last year and thankfully he is excellent now, he’s wonderful, he’s good, and he’s in the first episode and obviously he is going to be in the episode 11, the interview one that everybody loves at the end of the series.

“I do obviously speak highly of Tim. He is a great adviser to have in this process, because he’s been there, done it and seen it, and so he knows all the tricks of the trade of what these apprentices can get up to.”

The Apprentice will begin on Thursday, January 5 on BBC One and iPlayer.