01782 827 827 info@acorntraining.co.uk

About Us

About Acorn Training

We are proud to be a practitioner-led organisation that does well from doing good.

We are performance driven, with strong values, developed from within our organisation by our staff and stakeholders. We deliver Apprenticeships, Training, Employability Support and Youth and Justice Services with integrity, ownership and accountability.

We have strong roots in the local and wider communities that we serve; changing lives, inspiring individuals and their families to take responsibility for their path in life through person-centred, holistic support and learning and development.

Our Vision

“Ensuring a safe and secure future for everyone to succeed in life and work”.

Our Founder – Gareth Saldanha-Fallows

Gareth Saldanha-Fallows has worked within the skills and welfare to work industry since 1996, spending a number of years working within Further Education and welfare to work, delivering high profile regional contracts, such as Private Sector Led New Deal, Pathways to Work, The Work Programme, Community Work Placement and numerous Skills Funding Agency and DWP ESF contracts and Apprenticeships.

As a teenager, Gareth faced challenges because of his sexuality. Despite these obstacles, Gareth found safety and security within his LGBTQ+ community and further education, training as a secondary school teacher at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001. 

In 2008, Gareth, from Stoke-on-Trent, founded Acorn Training, now a large apprenticeships, skills, justice and employability provider employing close to 100 staff nationally. Gareth felt it was important for Acorn Training to be a safe and inclusive space for all communities, thus creating inclusive opportunities and breaking down engagement and motivational barriers. Gareth is passionate about equality in all factors and uses his own experiences to be well placed to fully understand the journey of LGBTQ+ individuals whilst continuing to understand and help other communities. 

Gareth holds a Masters Degree in Local Economic Regeneration from University and completed a MSc in Local Economic Regeneration. Gareth is currently undertaking a professional Doctorate in Education at the University of Birmingham.

Our Operations Director – Sophia Franzen

Sophia Franzen has worked in the Employability, Training and Justice Sector since 2008. Motivated and driven by roles pivotal to helping people in society; Sophia has successfully delivered a number of DWP, Skills and Justice contracts in her career to date.

In her role as Acorn Training’s Operations Director, Sophia ensures that the business is performance driven, with strong and robust core values to reflect the vision of Acorn Training founder, Gareth. Together with Gareth and the Leadership Team, Sophia works hard to ensure that quality is at the heart of the organisation; delivering the best possible support to the individuals and communities they serve.

Since joining Acorn Training in 2011, Sophia has helped to achieve rapid growth, diversification and innovation.  Sophia now leads the team to break down barriers and deliver vital employability programmes, justice services, apprenticeships, skills and training courses across the country.

Sophia is also a keen traveller; seeking out adventures and fun with her family and friends. 


Our Assistant Director of Employability & Justice – Niki Freeman

Niki has worked at Acorn Training for 6 years with over 30 years experience in the industry. Niki is a hands-on leader with a broad knowledge and practical experience in Welfare to Work, Justice and Skills. 

Niki is responsible for Acorn Training’s Justice and Employability delivery, she is passionate about supporting those most disadvantaged into employment and training. She is highly driven to contribute to improving all aspects of Equality and Diversity, recognising that E&D is more than just gender, race and ethnicity; it also includes people of different ages, sexuality, religions, physical and learning abilities, education levels and  more recently, economic equality.

In her personal time, Niki’s two sons and grandsons are the focal point of her life. She appreciates a good motivational book to read but equally like nothing better than spending quality time with good friends. Niki is keen to build and support others both personally and professionally. 

Our Assistant Director of Workplace Skills – Siobhan Clegg

Siobhan started with Acorn training in 2014 as a Business Manager and has since worked on employability contracts, audit, taking the lead on ISO and Matrix accreditation and more recently, making the move into skills and apprenticeships.

Siobhan has managed different contracts and geographies, changing roles and taking advantage of learning opportunities including achieving her assessors award, IQA award and operations manager apprenticeship standard.

She is passionate about supporting those in the most challenging sectors to learn new skills, making a difference to the communities that they work in and enjoys coaching her team to succeed, facilitating change and working in a cycle of continuous improvement.

In her spare time, Siobhan participates in archery, astronomy, going to gigs and festivals and spending time in the garden.

Our Executive Skills Director – Dave McMillan

Dave is an experienced professional with a career spanning over 18 years in the further education and skills sector, which followed a decade of working within the automotive engineering industry. He has held a range of roles and responsibilities in various contexts, from curriculum delivery to senior leadership level. Dave joined Acorn Training in 2022 and is responsible for Acorn Training’s apprenticeships, English and maths programmes, management information services and quality assurance and improvement.

Dave is passionate about creating career opportunities for all and ensuring that appropriate entry and progression pathways are available to all learners. He has a track record of leading, developing, and driving excellence throughout the curriculum and in all matters related to the quality and standard of teaching, learning, and assessment.

Outside of his work in education, Dave is an avid Formula 1 fan and enjoys spending quality time with his family and friends. He is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of learners and to creating a brighter future for all.

Our Assistant Director of Sales – Joe Rollings

Joe started his career in Education in 2009 working in a group of Birmingham Academy Schools before working as a Trainee Assessor with an ITP supporting learners with NVQ’s in Hospitality and Business Management under Train to Gain and progressed into Apprenticeships, Foundation Learning, Traineeship Study Programmes and Adult Education and held roles such as Internal Verifier and Quality Assurance Manager before moving into Sales, Marketing and Business Development in 2015.

Joe enjoys working in a role which allows me to help and support people who are most at need in society through education, he champions finding solutions for individuals and businesses and seeing people develop and achieve their aspirations and goals. 

There have been many career highs but one which he is particularly proud of is developing an international CMI Leadership and Management Programme which started with just one learner in a packaging company in Oxford. Over the initial three months, through collaboration they were able to adapt the programme to an international CMI Leadership and Management Programme across 5 countries.

Outside of work, Joe undertakes charity work which supports adults with Tourettes through his hobby of Wood Turning and enjoys travel and spending time with his family and dogs.

What we champion

ENGAGEMENT: by providing information, advice and guidance through welcoming and friendly channels, developing social value and reducing isolation.

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: by supporting access to and raising awareness of statutory service providers about the challenges and issues faced by all individuals and communities. 

HEALTH AND WELLBEING: by providing a robust wrap around services solution to address mental and physical health challenges, barriers associated with disability, sexual health promotion, drug and alcohol addiction and issues specific to the LGBTQ+ community, such as HIV, AIDS, chemsex and exploitation.

RAISING: aspirations, self-esteem and motivation through the support of providing positive role models and support. 

DEVELOPING OPPORTUNITIES: for employment and positive progression towards further learning, higher apprenticeships and higher education. Ensuring our services are available for all individuals to access with equal opportunity. 

See also: Our Core Values and Our Policies