Supported by our People Development Partnership with Tesco, Gemma Lillywhite is working towards a CIPD Level 5 Apprenticeship qualification and CIPD Associate Membership.

"The CIPD was always on my career bucket list, as they say. HR fascinates me and I think it’s really important to be seen and recognised as a competent HR manager – and to be able to back that up with the credibility, the knowledge and the skills that come from it."

Gemma Lillywhite, Project Manager, Colleague Data Privacy, Tesco

Gemma's Story

Gemma Lillywhite has worked at Tesco for 12 years across a range of roles. Throughout her time with the retailer she has always had 'a real passion' for the people aspect of her work and always had aspirations to gain CIPD accreditation.

No surprise then that Gemma leapt at the chance to undertake a Level 5 HR Consultant/Partner Apprenticeship. On successful completion, she will attain CIPD Associate Membership in addition to the apprenticeship qualification.

‘When I saw that Tesco were giving the opportunity for the people apprenticeship, I thought it was too good an opportunity for me to miss,’ she says. ‘It gave me the CIPD side of it but also let me explore the apprenticeship side of the knowledge and the skills. Coupled with that, I’m a bit of a closet geek and really enjoy learning!’

The course involves weekly online learning via CIPD’s digital learning programme delivered in partnership AVADO. This includes the completion of six assignments on various aspects of HR to demonstrate knowledge acquired. Meanwhile, a key aspect of the apprenticeship component is writing off-the-job reflective learning logs to highlight new skills taken on board.

‘It’s not just a case of doing the qualification, ticking the box and saying it’s done,’ explains Gemma. “It’s how it’s then applied into my day-to-day role. And how I can then continually develop myself and others around me.’

There are monthly interactions with a designated learning and development coach who monitors progress and makes sure all is going well. Gemma describes her coach as ‘absolutely fantastic’ and praises her ability to provoke ‘thoughtful conversation and questions’ that are very useful for the reflective part of the course.

‘We’ve got tutor support sessions and it gives you a really good basis for further reading, the scope and where to start. The world is your oyster, it’s up to you how far you want to go.’

The digital nature of the programme means the cohort consists of people from all over the world. In Gemma’s view, this offers a great chance to mix with others from outside her profession and organisation, and to find out what best practice looks like elsewhere.

On a personal level, she has hugely enjoyed the mental challenges and feels her confidence in her own abilities has grown significantly. Moreover, she says she looks more objectively at the work she does. In particular, the reflective logs have given her the chance to look back and challenge herself on what she could have done differently in certain past situations and think more coherently about what she might do differently moving forward.

Gemma describes the People Development Partnership between the CIPD and Tesco as ‘fabulous’ and is very appreciative of the learning and development route she’s pursuing. ‘I feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to do what I do and to work for a company that has such a strong relationship with a body as highly esteemed as the CIPD,’ she says. ‘And I really hope lots more colleagues throughout Tesco have the opportunity to work towards the achievements that, thanks to the partnership, I am currently working towards.’

To find out more about becoming a CIPD People Development Partner, get in touch with the team by emailing

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