acacia logo
Acacia Placeholder cipd logo

Sara Thomas, Chartered MCIPD | HR Business Partner at UK Space Agency

acacia learning logo

I work for a Civil Service Department, the UK Space Agency, where my role is HR Business Partner. I choose to study with Acacia because I was interested in studying via the CIPD Competency route. Given the number of years I have spent already doing both L&D and HR, Acacia offered an easy to read and understand website, the staff were helpful and the price was reasonable for the service provided.

I studied level 3 and 5 HR CIPD and level 5 L&D CIPD with Acacia and my tutor was the wonderful Anne Williams who has recently been awarded Acacia tutor of the year, which she thoroughly deserves.

I chose the CIPD competency route as I already had an established HR/L&D career path and felt that I would like to have this formally recognised by a worthy qualification, which may assist with onward progression, or at least be beneficial for future applications if I chose to leave the Civil Service.

It was a natural progression for me as my role was involved in more L&D activities and I wanted to achieve an additional professional qualification to demonstrate my abilities and to hopefully contribute towards my career progression.

What did you enjoy most about the CIPD training course?

For me the competency route was relatively easy, I already had the evidence to hand as my day to day roles included most of the assignment criteria, so I was able to furnish the evidence element. The research and reading was a little more intense, especially as I have only worked in the Civil Service, so my wider experience was quite limited. However the combination of both work based evidence and supplementary reading and research was both interesting, beneficial and also provided a much needed perspective on all things HR and L&D. The competency route made it easy for me to identify my skills weakness and areas for improvement and I feel that much of this shortfall has now been addressed by my research and up to date reading material. I love a CIPD factsheet !

My favourite aspect was the coaching and mentoring element as this is something that I enjoy partaking in during my working day. But to be honest they were all enjoyable, some slightly more than others, but overall, they were all achievable and did not require too much additional research from a work-based evidence perspective.

What did you find most challenging and do you have any advice for fellow students?

Time management is something that you need to be aware of, it is no good rushing things and leaving research etc to the end of the working day when you are tired. I set aside actual days and did a small piece of work at a time; I also reviewed and rewrote my work several times. If you haven’t been in a learning environment for a while it can be quite daunting but that is the benefit of having a great tutor who can give you pointers and advice. I think the key message would be to remember to use your tutor, they know everything you need to know and can often make the most difficult things seem easier after discussing an issue with them.

From a tutor perspective Anne has been amazing and has become someone I class as a dear friend, I have now achieved 3 CIPD qualifications by working with Anne and can honestly say that she is the reason I have continued with this learning experience. She has added so much to the whole learning experience and has a wealth of experience and knowledge and challenges students in a way which is subtle yet makes you think, consider, reconsider and challenge your own views and opinions.

Has gaining your CIPD qualification benefited your career yet?

Yes, I have been promoted since obtaining my level 5 HR CIPD qualification and am currently looking at roles in a higher grade.

Have you applied your learning at work?

This is difficult as I have been doing this type of role for a fairly long time but I suppose what it has done is made me challenge my own views, made me reflect and has updated my knowledge through up to date research. My tutor also challenged my views and suggested alternative methods and ways of working which I have made notes of for future work issues.

Overall the CIPD training course has helped me to develop as a HR/L&D professional. I think it has ensured that I am ‘current’ in research and study, and it has given me the confidence to believe in myself as an HR/L&D professional and I feel that when I am at CIPD networking events I can present myself as an equal – I probably already was, but now I feel like I am!!

Do you have any plans for future study?

I intend to reach CIPD level 7 HR at some point in the future, I am about to commence ODD practitioner L&D so will be busy for a while.

Would I do it again – yes!!! In fact one of my team is about to commence on this path in the New Year with Anne via the CIPD Competency Route and my aim would be for more of my team to follow this learning path.

Acacia have been easy to work with, Samson especially helpful and quick to reply to messages and enquiries.


Feedback from Sara’s boss John Cobb, Head of HR, UK Space Agency

“Sara works hard and I have seen first-hand her commitment to the L&D programme and have been only too pleased that the Agency have been able to fully support her undertaking. I totally agree about her enthusiasm and when you couple this with how busy her role is, it is truly an outstanding achievement.

Thank you Anne and Acacia, for all the support you have given her. I am aware that it has been a great partnership which has aided the progress and outcome massively.”


Anne Williams, MCIPD, Acacia tutor and CIPD Competency Route Programme Director

“It has been my pleasure to work with such a knowledgable and experienced professional and I would like to take this opportunity to commend Sara on her outstanding commitment, effort and enthusiasm throughout all three of the CIPD HR/L&D programmes completed.

Sara’s energy and genuine thirst for learning and self-development for herself and others is infectious as I’m sure her work colleagues have witnessed in the workplace. The speed at which Sara has progressed through her study, whilst maintaining excellent standards is without doubt the highest I’ve experienced in the 25 years of delivering CIPD programmes.

I wish Sara well in her role with you at the Space Agency and I’m certain she will continue to add significant value to the exciting work you and your team accomplish.”