9 July 2020

Our MD, Vikki Sylvester, has been named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’

We’re so proud to announce that Victoria Sylvester, our Managing Director, has won the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in the Sentinel Business Awards!

Vikki leads Acacia Training and all the other businesses in our growing group, with integrity, compassion, ambition and vision. She cares passionately about training, equality, wellbeing and care standards. She believes in empowering and trusting her team and creating opportunities for her employees to grow, while encouraging us all to play our part in the community.

Here’s the story of how Vikki has gone from her career as a registered nurse to being on the board of our multinational owners – MBH Group. She employs more than 90 people across Acacia Training, International School of Beauty Therapy and others.

We’re feeling very proud – well done Vikki!

Here’s Victoria’s story, in her own words…

“Twenty years ago, I was a nurse working on the ward in North Staffs Hospital. Last year I became the first woman on the board of a multinational corporation. On my journey between these two moments in my life I’ve launched, led and grown a successful company, which now employs 90 people, while raising my four children.

I set up Acacia Training in 2000 with my mum because we wanted to provide courses that genuinely met employer needs in the care sector. We had experienced first-hand the struggle to recruit and retain quality care staff, so we knew there was a gap in the market. This personal experience has consistently given me a competitive advantage as I understand and have a passion for the sector. I’m also the Director of two care homes so I’m aware of the challenges and demands being faced on the ground.

Passion for wellbeing

Acacia Training celebrate award winI took over the helm as Managing Director in 2012. As the company has grown, we’ve never lost that family atmosphere. I’m passionate about creating a happy, healthy workforce where everyone feels part of the success of the company and achieving our Stoke-on-Trent Healthworks Silver accreditation was a huge positive for us. We lead by example and have a strong reputation for encouraging wellbeing in the workplace, providing Mental Health First Aid training to over 600 people so far and lots of businesses.

In 2019 I have had expert opinion pieces published in HR News, People Management, Women and Home, HR Review, FE News, Caring Times, RoSPA Journal, Care Home Management, Social Work News and more.

We have also hosted a visit from then Home Secretary Amber Rudd as well as travelled to Parliament to talk about our work in disability confidence and share good practice.

Focusing on Impact

The health and social sector will need another half a million jobs, and people to fulfil them, by 2030. We have national Skills for Care accreditation for the quality of our training. Our high standards ensure that people of all stages in their career are gaining the skills they need to thrive. Three quarters (73%) of our learners found work, got a better job or improved their prospects after training with us.

Acacia Training operates nationally but I particularly want to support people locally to find jobs and progress in their careers. We work with jobcentres to help unemployed people get the qualifications they need for jobs in nursing, childcare and social care. One of those we’ve supported is Paula Shepherd, 52, a former hotel manager. Paula was so inspired by our training that she launched her own company providing a home care service in the Moorlands.

I’m proud that Acacia Training was one of the first in the UK to gain ‘disability confident leader’ status. This shows our commitment to helping disabled people thrive in the workplace.

We signed the Armed Forces Covenant to show our support for former armed forces personnel (our two mental health trainers are both ex forces) and sponsored a defib machine at a centre for ex forces personnel.

My advice: Be brave and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

“My personal strategy is to think positively, constantly move forward and refuse to let things stand in my way. I hope my experience proves to other women that there are no limits to what you can achieve. Learn to be brave, step out of your comfort zone, focus on what impact you can have on people and don’t compare yourself to anyone else just be proud and accepting of who you are.”

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