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Love to learn in 2023 with Acacia Training


For training entrepreneur Vikki Sylvester the answer is “education, learning new skills and focusing on the can-do”. 

Founder of leading independent provider Acacia Training, for more than 20 years the business’s courses have supported thousands of learners, helping them realise their potential so they can achieve more fulfilling jobs and lives.

And the progress extends beyond that, its wider impact benefitting employers, customers and the world at large too.

Specialising in health and wellbeing, Acacia delivers Government-funded, regulated content programmes and qualifications as well as a suite of business and digital credentials.

Its categories span a wide variety from those increasingly recognised today for their value, such as social care and residential child care, to popular mainstays like dental nursing, sport and beauty. 

“Our mission is quality education that adds value, empowering people to be able to make choices and provide opportunities for career progression,” says chief executive Sylvester.

“The approach helps learners to make a positive contribution to society. Someone may start with no qualifications and little confidence, yet by improving their skills they realise their true capabilities. To do that we have a clear and strategic focus that aligns with what is needed by businesses and individuals across England.”

Acacia is now helping 5,000 learners a year and has a network of 155 employers and 108 tutors. Growth is strong with the business on target for a £10 million turnover this year.

Team Acacia, renowned for its own expert management, now numbers around 170 people.

Learning is blended, a mix online materials and interaction and face-to-face encounters across five centres as well as workplaces such as salons.

Pop-ups also encourage take-up by transforming access and cutting travel costs for those who very often have limited resources.

The majority of learners, their ages an uplifting range from 16 to the mid-70s, are mostly part timers taking courses lasting from three months to just over two years.

Sylvester started the business with her mum, both then in nursing, after they saw a failure in the care sector to support day release opportunities.

Their solution was to register with City & Guilds and become an awarding organisation delivering its own education pathways. 

 

Acacia went from strength to strength and it has worked with employers such as the NHS, Age UK, Barnado’s and Premier Inn.

Now part of investment holding group MBH, contending with a volatile education sector prey to changing Government policies, has been its most enduring test.

“We always have to predict and adapt,” says Sylvester. “Take care managers today, they now need to be more like business managers.”

Acacia walks its own talk with all its team, primarily female, paid the real living wage. All staff have the chance to study to Level 2 education as minimum when they join and 86 team members are partners in the business.

After a family loan to get going, investment has largely been self-funded. Going forward that will continue as Sylvester concentrates plans on curriculum development and follow-ups to apprenticeships embracing a range from the long term unemployed up to degree level.

“We believe education is the answer to tackling environmental, social and government challenges,” she explains. 



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