Leadership Board

Leadership & Governance

Derek Kitchen


Derek’s career spans 48 years, with almost 30 of these being spent in board roles in both the public and private sector, including as CEO of Northern Birmingham Mental Health NHS Trust. Derek is a key member of our Leadership Board who strives for continuous improvement and is keen to deliver the best possible results for all concerned. He provides clear strategic leadership and has an in-depth understanding of change management.

A Chartered Public Finance Accountant, in 2015 he was named as one of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountancy’s trailblazers, of whom this was said: ‘…individuals with outstanding records in innovation’.

Derek passionately believes in and works to ensure equality of opportunity, in education, employment, and care, and has a strong reputation for this. Outside of work Derek serves as Trustee of Wolverhampton Students Union.

Alex O'Neill


Alex has been involved in Health and Social Care Recruitment and Training for over 30 years having walked out of his A Level courses into an office junior role in May 1992 and was soon placing Operating Department Assistants, Scrub Anaesthetic Nurses and other Allied Health Professionals into the NHS and Private sector across the UK. It was a baptism of fire but a job role that he fell in love with and thankfully found he could do!

Alex quickly established a nationwide network of loyal and dedicated staff, many of whom followed him in his career. In 1996 he was approached to develop a healthcare ‘start-up’ in a generalist recruitment business based in Sutton Coldfield. In an 18-month period Alex developed the healthcare desk providing Nurses, HCA’s and Support workers across the West Midlands and by the beginning of 1998 he was running the biggest division in the company with turnover approaching £1m per annum.

An opportunity presented itself to move to a larger recruitment company in Central Birmingham with ambitious plans to open offices across the UK and Alex took the plunge. The remit was to explore the market, locate office space, recruit care staff, develop clients and build a foundation for local staff to get trained. Alex opened offices in Birmingham, Liverpool, Brighton, South London, Bristol, Leeds, Darlington, Manchester and Coventry.

In 2011 Alex proudly established Fairway Homecare the first care recruitment business in the UK to develop a full adult training structure years before it became trendy or mandatory in the sector. Fast forward over the last 13 years, Alex continues to evolve and modernise (some would say disrupt) the social care sector with a passionate desire to build business, develop careers, innovate recruitment and training practice and deliver modern solutions to age old problems in both health and social care.

Graham Arnold


Graham originally trained as a careers adviser working with inner-city London young adults before deciding to work with special needs children and their families. His passion for the sector and making a difference was rewarded by his appointment to Assistant Director for Business Development with the Tower Hamlets Careers Service. A secondment to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets within Vocational Training and Further Education opened up new opportunities and he began studying for a Diploma in Training Management. After graduating Graham went on to develop two highly successful construction training centres in East London, fulfilling the training and skills needs identified for the 2012 London Olympics, Crossrail and other major regeneration programmes.

Graham’s last role in London before moving to the West Midlands was as the Director of Apprenticeships & Employer Engagement with Southgate College. Graham then joined Stourbridge College before moving to BMET College (following merger) as Bid Manager. In 2015, Graham set up his own consultancy business, Hoops Solutions Limited, to great success. He now focusses on bid and tender writing and training management. Graham advises on designing, developing and delivering external funding strategies and provides commercial and market driven services to private and public sectors clients.

Graham’s strong background in the sector has resulted in many successful bids for his clients, enabling them to fulfil their revenue and capital project plans. Since joining us in early 2022, Graham has contributed to our leadership board by providing challenge and direction on funding, strategy, audit and data and sector developments.

Martin Callaghan


After completing an NVQ in Business Administration Martin began his career within the Accounts department of a tech company at the start of the mobile technology revolution. Very quickly Martin’s role extended to other areas of the business; initially in customer support then technical pre-sales, before progressing to project management and leading on bespoke projects for large clients.

In 2013 Martin joined HR Caddy, a leading Birmingham based HR Consultancy Service offering a wide variety of Human Resources services to clients. Martin has been instrumental in HR Caddy’s growth and now holds the position of Commercial Director. In addition Martin sits on the board of the local Chamber of Commerce that supports and advises both the local community and businesses.

Martin is a vocal member of the board, providing support and challenge around our HR policies and procedures and has been impactful in shaping our recruitment and selection of staff and capturing staff and learner voice.

Gill Caldicott

Education Advisor

Gill’s started her career working with a training provider teaching personal and social development to school leavers that had left school with few or no qualifications. Recognising a fundamental lack of basic skills that prevented many learners from progressing in their career goals, Gill re-trained to teach English and began a career in Further Education.

Gill’s career spans 30 years in teaching and management, mostly in Further Education Colleges, with a short period working for a national training provider as the strategic lead in Workplace Basic Skills.

During her career, Gill has worked in several colleges across the West Midlands and has led her departments during Ofsted inspections. Gill’s capabilities to make continual improvements has enabled her to hold positions such as Department Director, Assistant Principle and Director of Foundation Learning and English and Maths across a group of four college.

Alongside management roles Gill continued to teach and qualified as a specialist in Dyslexia and Autism and became the nominated education member of Dudley Safeguarding Children’s Board for four years and member of the Association of College’s (AOC) Mental Health Policy Group.

Following retiring in 2020 Gill works part time as a Training and Educational Consultant and has been advising our board and staff on how to improve the quality of our programmes.

Eyad Hanash

Head of Operations

Eyad’s varied and interesting journey in the further education sector spans nearly 28 years. Graduating in 1996 with a degree in business and economics, a chance meeting with an independent training provider at a recruitment fair resulted in a ‘proper job’ that allowed Eyad to explore several roles in the organisation including marketing, IT and business development. An opportunity soon arose for Eyad to train as a management NVQ assessor, which paved the way to programme delivery and the start of Eyad’s keen interest in how courses are funded, constructed and delivered effectively.

Fast forward four and a half formative years and a quest for more challenge and responsibility, Eyad was recruited as a college Account Manager. Over the 16 years Eyad worked at the college he held several positions including Head of Employer Services where he was a key member of the College Management Team shaping employer engagement and apprenticeship strategy with responsibility for the college’s sales team, sub-contractors, Commercial and Employability programmes and the Audit and Compliance team.

In 2016 Eyad joined Embark Learning with the mission to use his expertise in operational management, funding, quality, compliance and bid writing. Since joining Embark, Eyad has been successful in securing several million pounds of funding, including direct contracts for AEB from ESFA / WMCA and European Social Funding. This funding has allowed Embark to grow and become a leading, specialist provider of health and social care provision in the region.

Along with the leadership board, Eyad has also been instrumental in shaping the direction of Embark and recruiting teams that deliver on Embark’s strategic and operational objectives. The programmes that Embark deliver have resulted in the training of over 2000 new carers entering the sector in the last few years.