The “best social worker in the world” has a lot to say for himself, and he says it at a million miles a minute. The Apprentice contestant Steven Ugoalah might be more humble in the flesh than his on-screen persona, but he’s no less full of enthusiasm.
In the same breath as describing his volunteer work with vulnerable adults, he insists his latest project, a YouTube channel showing viewers how to become a millionaire is “definitely social work”.
“It’s going to be effecting the psycho-social needs of a lot of people who want to seek inspiration,” he says.
He is anxious to reframe his notorious boast to being the best social worker in the world: “Every social worker is the best in the world-they’ve committed their lives to doing something to help other people’s.” But he does stand by the fact that confidence in your abilities is key.
Canadian Ugoalah spent his lunch hour volunteering from the age of seven, amassing over 2000 hours of voluntary work by the time he was 16. “The minute I was able to go to university and do a social work degree, I did- I was like a duck to water,” he says, explaining that he still volunteers at a soup kitchen now despite no longer doing paid social work.
While he acknowledges that he’s a flamboyant character, it’s clear he sees a separation between Steven the social worker and Steven the TV personality: “On the show it’s obviously completely different from any social work environment.”
“If your line manager tells you to go and do a statutory review, you go and do it, no question about it.”
The Apprentice, on the other hand, can be a shark tank of individual wills pitted against each other. There’s no room for that kind of ego in social work, Ugoalah is clear. In social work, “before you make a decision you consult, consult, consult,” an attitude of team playing he says he tried to bring to the show.
As the first social worker to appear on the reality show, he felt he had a lot to prove. “Going on The Apprentice, I did want to enhance the image of social work- to show that social workers are skilled in a lot of areas,” he says. “I think business could learn a lot from social work.”
“Social workers have to build relationships to deal with what are sometimes very difficult situations. In business if you build good relationships with people, they’ll come back.”
Like him or not, you can’t fault Ugoalah’s fervour. He repeatedly describes social work as a vocation, and one of his motives in going on The Apprentice was to change the profile of social workers who “so much of the time can’t speak up for themselves.”
Whether or not he’s succeeded in his goal, however, remains to be seen; as Ugoalah goes backs to his property portfolio and his social work consultancy, could we be seeing a whole new type of contestant lining up to face the wrath of Lord Sugar?