Apprenticeship Awards

Rod Palmer Memorial Award

Burgess Hill District Lions Club has created a special award that recognises and encourages the skills of young engineers in memory of Lion Rod Palmer of Sayers Common.

Rod, who had a great love of machinery, ran R. A. Palmer Garden Machinery in London Road from 1972 and was a member of Burgess Hill District Lions Club for more than 30 years.

When he died in October 2010, aged 65, his family and Lions Club members agreed that the most fitting tribute would be a special award for engineering students at Central Sussex College.

The first recipient of the Rod Palmer Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement was 17-year-old John Oxley, who is studying motor vehicle maintenance and repair.  Remarkably, John also shares Rod's particular enthusiasm for garden equipment and works part-time in a garden machinery specialist in Lingfield.


John Oxley being presented with the Rod Palmer Memorial Trophy by Sue Palmer and Lion Tony Parris    John Oxley after giving a talk to the Burgess Hill Lions Club


 Lion Rod's engineering skills were invaluable to the club.  He brought the club mascot to life in the form of Percy the Penguin and also introduced three loveable automated musical bears that we regularly use for charity fund-raising.  He also salvaged and restored the old milk floats that the Club still uses for parades and for our Santa's sleigh at Christmas.

Rod's wife Sue said she was delighted that John, who lives in East Grinstead, was the first recipient of the award.

"Rod was always encouraging young people to take an interest in engineering and we thought this award would be a perfect memorial to him."
"If he knew that it had been awarded to John, who shares so many of his passions, he would have been amazed and delighted."


Steve Belcher Award

Lion President John Gee presenting Matt Poulter with the Steve Belcher Award    Steve Willis with Lions John Gee and Tony Parris

The achievements of gas and water trainees were rewarded on 6th December 2012 at the Steve Willis Training Apprentice Award Evening. Twenty-two recently-graduated apprentices were celebrated by friends, family, employers and staff of Steve Willis Training at the event, in which 16 gas and six plumbing apprentices were recognised for their efforts.

Seven graduating apprentices were heralded with individual awards, which ranged from ‘Recognition of Outstanding Commitment' to ‘Contribution to Entertainment', and were presented a trophy from their tutor and Steve Willis.

One of the most inspiring awards was presented to Matt Poulter, who won the Steve Belcher Award, dedicated to a former trainer at the centre who sadly passed away in 2010. This award was sponsored by Burgess Hill District Lions Club, and recognises Matt for his courageous commitment to study while living with Asperger's Syndrome. The Lions Club contributed £100 towards a voucher for Monument Tools, a specialist tool resource for engineers, which Monument then generously doubled, to give Matt the choice of £200 worth of tools to start his gas career.

Burgess Hill District Lions Club President John Gee was present at the ceremony to hand over a trophy to Matt, along with executive club member Lion Tony Parris, who is relishing the next five years the Lions will spend sponsoring the Steve Belcher Award.

Lion Tony said: "It is a real, real pleasure to be working with Steve Willis Training. It's great to have a community partnership that we have formed with the centre. Lion President John Gee had voted unanimously to form this five-year partnership. The award is for the student that has risen to the biggest challenge, not just at home but also in the classroom. We're always enthusiastic to help the youth in the area. It's all about taking and giving - the majority of money we raise comes from our bookshop and around 95% of that goes back out into the community."

Steve Willis said of the newly-formed partnership: "I'm looking forward to working together. It will be nice to put something back into the community." The Recognition of Personal Achievement Award, sponsored by Plumbase, was awarded to Dan Craghill, 28, for ‘tolerance and patience', having been in the same class as mostly 16 to 18 year olds since he started his apprenticeship. Steve Willis Training, which typically have around 200 apprentices enrolled at once, congratulated all graduates on their success.