The power of learning: Wakefield engineer offers career tips during Learning at Work Week 2024

A trainee engineer from Wakefield is sharing her career story during Learning at Work Week 2024 (13th-19th May) to celebrate the career progress they’ve made thanks to the lifelong learning programmes at Amazon.

Learning at Work Week is an annual programme run by the charity Campaign for Learning. The charity works with organisations around the UK to create activities and fun challenges in the workplace to help employees learn and grow.

This year’s theme, Learning power, explores how lifelong and continual learning gives people power to change, grow and achieve individual, team and organisational goals.

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Yolanda Theresa Mills, who works at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Wakefield, has used Amazon’s development and training opportunities to shape her professional career.

Yolanda Theresa MillsYolanda Theresa Mills
Yolanda Theresa Mills

One of the programmes Yolanda is taking part in at Amazon is Amazon Career Choice. The programme, which has been running at Amazon for the past decade, pre-pays up to 95% of tuition and fees for courses in high-demand fields, up to £8,000 over four years, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.

Courses available include accountancy, HGV driving and software development, and are designed to help employees build careers at Amazon or elsewhere. It means that eligible employees are given the opportunity to gain the skills and qualifications needed to follow their career aspirations.

Yolanda, who is using the programme to help secure her role as an engineer, has shared her story to encourage others to take their career to the next level using the Amazon Career Choice programme.

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Yolanda lives in Wakefield and works at the Amazon fulfilment centre in the town.

Yolanda spent 15 years on a cruise ship after filling out the wrong application formYolanda spent 15 years on a cruise ship after filling out the wrong application form
Yolanda spent 15 years on a cruise ship after filling out the wrong application form

She joined Amazon three years ago, initially on the inventory control and quality assurance team at the company’s Dartford fulfilment centre. Since then, she has used Amazon’s internal development opportunities to transfer to a role on the reliability maintenance engineering (RME) team in Wakefield.

Before joining Amazon, Yolanda worked in tourism and hotel management. In 2005 she accidentally applied to work on a cruise ship by filling in the wrong job application form, and returned to land 15 years later after a rich – but unexpected – career.

Yolanda joined Amazon seeking a better work/life balance than she was afforded whilst traveling for her job. She wanted to remain close to her family, and also wanted to push herself to train in a new career.

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“It’s okay to dream new dreams,” said Yolanda. “My dream of working in hospitality expired, and when I joined Amazon I was ready for something new. At Amazon, I knew I wouldn’t be boxed in to one set career path, so it seemed like the perfect place to start dreaming again.”

3 May 2024.Yolanda Theresa Mills at Amazon DSA6, Wakefield.3 May 2024.Yolanda Theresa Mills at Amazon DSA6, Wakefield.
3 May 2024.Yolanda Theresa Mills at Amazon DSA6, Wakefield.

Many of skills Yolanda learned during her time at sea transferred well to a career at Amazon, particularly in terms of health and safety. She said:

“The culture of safety I learned to implement on cruise ships came with me to Amazon, and it’s an area of work I’m still really interested in. Alongside that, Amazon in Wakefield rolled out a new programme last year that created positions on the RME team for people without engineering qualifications. The idea was that the hands-on experience gained would encourage people to peruse new educational opportunities.

“It worked for me, as I’m now doing an engineering course through Amazon Career Choice to become an engineer. The dream is that I’ll one day become a health and safety engineering expert at Amazon, so I can use skills old and new in two areas that I’m passionate about – health and safety and engineering.”

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Yolanda has also completed the Data Analyst course through Amazon Career Choice.

What advice does Yolanda have for anyone hoping to boost their careers with lifelong learning?

“Your age, your circumstances or where you’re from don’t matter if you want to succeed, particularly at Amazon. If you want to do something, go for it. Talk to colleagues who inspire you and find out about their career paths, and try to get help from people however you can.

“To women who are thinking about moving into engineering: remember there’s nothing stopping you from getting stuck in and getting dirt under your nails. You can be a practical engineer or a programming engineer. Don’t put yourself in a box – follow your dreams.”

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Amazon also provides opportunities to improve existing skills or learn new ones through internal career progression opportunities such as apprenticeships, transferring to a different department and promotion to a managerial role.

Amazon Wakefield General Manager, David Benfell, added: “We are proud of Yolanda’s success through the Amazon Career Choice programme. Career development is at the core of our culture at Amazon, where lifelong learning is promoted at every turn. Many of our team members have taken part in Career Choice and are now fulfilling their potential on Amazon teams all over the UK, Ireland and further afield. Others have gone on to successful careers elsewhere, and we are proud to have supported them in their professional development by giving them extra tools for success in their new roles. We look forward to offering employees even more choices in the future as Amazon Career Choice evolves and grows.”

Amazon employees receive competitive pay and comprehensive benefits. Pay starts at a minimum of £12.30 per hour in Wakefield and employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package, including private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection and an employee discount as well as a company pension plan.

Amazon has been named as a ‘Top Employer UK 2024’ by the Top Employer Institute, one of the world’s most prestigious certifications in the field of human resources management. This award recognises Amazon’s commitment to the development and well-being of its employees. In addition to the UK accolade, Amazon has also been certified as one of the Top Employers in Europe for a second consecutive year.

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In 2023, Amazon ranked in second place on LinkedIn’s Top Companies list — an annual list that identifies the most sought-after places to work and grow your career in the UK. Using data from LinkedIn’s 900 million members, LinkedIn’s Top Companies list is designed to help professionals identify the best companies to grow their careers.

To find out more about a career with Amazon, visit Amazon Jobs.

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