Ashfield military veterans celebrated by Amazon team

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Two Amazon employees from Ashfield have been talking about their experience of leaving the military and joining the firm ahead of this year’s Armed Forces Day celebrations.

Mark Leek, of Kirkby, was born and bred in the Armed Forces and joined the Territorial Army to get a feel for the culture, where he dealt with explosives and protected Salisbury Plain.

He transferred to a new role in Hastings as a gunner, but felt after a year, transferring to Germany to take up a civilian role with the British Armed Forces.

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After he returned to the UK in 2010, Mark had several roles in security and spent some time in Canada as a truck driver until 2021, when he was made redundant.

Mark Leek who works at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Sutton. Picture: AmazonMark Leek who works at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Sutton. Picture: Amazon
Mark Leek who works at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Sutton. Picture: Amazon

A friend’s son worked at Amazon and told him of a Christmas sign-on bonus being offered and it piqued his interest.

Speaking on his experience of joining Amazon two years ago – he is a waste co-ordinator at Amazon in Sutton – Mark said: “Honestly, I just thought it would be a job to see me through Christmas, but Amazon changed my mind – I’m still here.”

He said his favourite thing about working at Amazon is the camaraderie between each department.

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He said even though each department has a different part to play, there is a level of mutual respect across the board because everyone wants the same thing: to give their very best to the customer.

David Beeton works at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Sutton. Picture: AmazonDavid Beeton works at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Sutton. Picture: Amazon
David Beeton works at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Sutton. Picture: Amazon

Mark said, “Our drive and commitment is to give that Amazon smile. That is what unites us all.”

Speaking about how the skills that his military experience taught him help him in his Amazon role, he said: “I gained the self-confidence and communication skills to talk to anyone and get a full picture of what is going on.

“The military work ethic prepares you to get the job done at Amazon, as best as possible. Also, it helps to have that sense of humour that the Army affords you.”

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One of the many conveyors transporting thousands of amazon items through Amazon's Sutton Fulfilment Centre. Picture: Rebecca Havercroft/nationalworld.comOne of the many conveyors transporting thousands of amazon items through Amazon's Sutton Fulfilment Centre. Picture: Rebecca Havercroft/nationalworld.com
One of the many conveyors transporting thousands of amazon items through Amazon's Sutton Fulfilment Centre. Picture: Rebecca Havercroft/nationalworld.com

Military action

David Beeton is a workplace health and safety technician at Amazon’s Sutton fulfilment centre, having joined Amazon two years ago after an eight-year career in the Royal Navy.

After watching his uncle’s Navy career unfold, and hearing his father speak of his time in the Army during conscription, David’s career path was clear to him. In 1975 he left school, completed his training and joined the Navy as a radio weapons engineering mechanic.

He was serving on HMS Coventry when it was attacked and sunk in May 1982, during the Falklands War.

David was rescued from a life raft and flown back to the Falkland Islands, but said, “It was out of the frying pan and into the fire really, as we were still being attacked.”

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Back on land, the injured and displaced were gathered and sailed to South Georgia to be repatriated back to the UK.

David then spent 12 days on the QE2, which he described as “somewhat of a relief, but still difficult because we had lost friends and close colleagues”.

He said: “Those days on the QE2 started the healing process for a lot of us.”

From there, David returned home to Southampton and had a few weeks of rest before being reassigned to a site north of London, where he remained for 18 months before deciding to leave the Navy.

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IT career

He then spent 35 years working in IT, until Covid hit, causing the loss of many IT contracts and David needed to take the next step in his career.

He said: “I was kind of left to sit on my hands for 12 months. When my wife went back to work as a teaching assistant, I saw positions advertised at the new fulfilment centre and thought I would just go for it.”

David joined the Sutton team two weeks after the fulfilment centre opened and enjoyed the challenge it brought.

During his time in IT, David had completed a certificate in occupational safety and health and hoped he could use it in Amazon.

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After a year, he joined the health and safety team. He has been there now for the past 18 months and is now studying for a national diploma in safety organised through Amazon.

He said Amazon felt like a good fit because the work ethic, discipline and leadership that you develop in the forces seemed to transfer well to the role.

He said: “There’s so much familiarity in the role with Amazon as an ex-serviceman,” he said. “You feel like you are coming home, in a way. There’s so much support within the company for people who used to serve in the forces.

“For example, we have the Amazon Warriors, an affinity group for ex-military employees. It’s a group of people who understand where you have been and are there to support each other.”

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Military programme

The Amazon Military Programme offers members of the military community the opportunity to pursue a range of new career paths.

Last year, more than 350 veterans, reservist and military spouses joined in more than 35 different job roles including health and safety specialists, engineers and team leaders, joining more than 2,500 veterans already employed at Amazon since it commenced its military programme in 2011.

Emma Morgan, Amazon programme manager, global military affairs, said: “We believe everyone should have the opportunity to learn and develop and we are passionate about extending these opportunities to veterans, military spouses and reservists.

“People from the military community add tremendous value to our workforce and it’s fantastic to celebrate them during this year’s Armed Forces Day events.”

Warriors at Amazon

Many members of the company’s military community are part of the Warriors at Amazon affinity group.

Warriors at Amazon includes current and former active military personnel, their families, and employees who support them. This group provides members with a professional network, organises community outreach programmes, and assists veterans during their transition into civilian life.

Amazon has 13 affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups. They play an important role in bringing employees together and create a sense of community globally, while encouraging inclusivity and diversity. Groups include Glamazon, the Black Employee Network, Asians@Amazon, People with Disabilities and Women@.

Amazon is also a proud signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant, originally introduced in 2011, has a focus on helping the Armed Forces community to access the same support from government and commercial services as the public.

They first signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2013 and renewed its commitment in 2021, vowing to uphold its key principles and to demonstrate its commitment to serving personnel, reservists, veterans and families.

Launched in 2021 the Amazon Corporate Military Internship Programme is one such opportunity. It offers a direct path into corporate roles in e-commerce for those transitioning from the Armed Forces. Those on the programme are supported throughout their transition to the corporate world, including a military mentor, tailored support from line management and an onboarding buddy.

To find out more about beginning a career with Amazon, see jobsatamazon.co.uk

Amazon provides competitive pay, comprehensive benefits and a modern, safe and engaging work environment for its employees. The roles pay between £11 and £12 per hour depending on location, and employees can also take advantage of Amazon’s pioneering Career Choice programme, which pre-pays 95 per cent of tuition for courses in high-demand fields, up to £8,000 over four years, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at the company.