The increasing importance of compliance and competence was high on the agenda as FIS recognised apprentices and top employees across the finishes and interiors sector at this year’s President’s Lunch. More than 300 members and guests from across the sector packed Plaisterers’ Hall last month for this major industry event.

In his new role as President of FIS, Andrew Smith opened the event and welcomed FIS members, guests and sponsors, thanking them for their support.

Addressing the audience, Mr Smith said: “Here we are at the start of another year, with a strong UK economy but surrounded by swelling seas of uncertainty and challenge, with some recent events of seismic proportion: the vote to leave the EU, a chronic skills shortage (even before the vote), and the tragedy of Grenfell Tower last summer.”

With the liquidation of Carillion having shaken the construction industry and the ramifications significantly impacting the finishes and interiors sector, particularly with regard to monies held in retention, Mr Smith went on to talk about the perilous state of so many main contractors in the UK, acknowledging how many people in the room rely on them – directly or indirectly. He highlighted how FIS is helping by pushing on members’ behalf for retention money to be held in trust so that if a main contractor does fold, then money can be ring fenced.

Mr Smith reported how technical leadership has always been a key focus for FIS, and never more so following the systematic failures at Grenfell Tower and the questions, challenges and opportunities this now presents. He touched on how the days of uncontrolled value engineering and a “that will do” attitude are gone, and highlighted the expectation of far greater scrutiny of both what has been installed and how it has been installed.

Linking this with skills development, Mr Smith said: “Compliance and competence are going to be increasingly important in the coming years and FIS has invested in a skills team to help deliver a competent workforce for the sector – and to help FIS members get full value from the levy. “This programme is called Fit-Out Futures and the President’s Lunch provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate some of the successes to date with our Fit-Out Futures Awards.”

This introduced the unveiling and award presentation of the three winners in the Fit-Out Futures categories – Apprentice of the Year, Outstanding Employee and Future Leader – before lunch was served. Comedian Ian Stone provided the after-lunch entertainment. A stand-up comedian, broadcaster and writer, Ian is famous for appearing as a guest on shows such as the comedy panel show Mock the Week and is a  regular guest on BBC Radio 5’s Fighting Talk.

David Frise, FIS chief executive, returned to the stage to present the final award of the day – Lifetime Achievement – which went to Phil Taylor of Taylor Hart.

Read on to find out all about this year’s winners…

Apprentice of the Year


Sean Dooner –

Apprentice Dryliner at MPG Contracts

Sean returned to work as a labourer after nine years as a personal carer, taking up an offer of an apprenticeship to achieve his long-term goal of having a trade. MPG Contracts’ HSEQ manager, Alex Adams, put Sean forward. He said: “In just a year, Sean has learned every aspect of drylining on-site and his attendance at college is exemplary. He’s passed written technical exams ahead of hundreds of others. Sean is a great example to show that retraining is an option to those willing to commit themselves to attaining a qualification through hard work.”

The judges commented: “Sean’s commitment to following his goals and making the bold decision to retrain demonstrates a great strength of character.”


Conor Bartram – Apprentice Trainee

Site Manager at Pexhurst Services

As described by company director Nick Tagliarini, Conor has been “a great success in his first year” and “handles himself very well with subcontractors and clients on-site, setting a good example to others”.

Judges mentioned Conor’s excellent qualifications and training levels and how he shows clear potential to be  a leader.

Future Leader


Stephen Reynolds – Category Manager – Ceilings at SIG

According to nominator Craig Adams, branch director with SIG, Stephen demonstrates his credentials on a daily basis by having the all-round characteristics of a great leader and being someone people willingly follow, rather than someone who takes an authoritarian approach. Stephen’s positivity and a clear plan helped to bring people together in difficult circumstances in 2017. Craig added: “Stephen has the ability to change his approach as the situation requires. He supports and protects his colleagues, and always try to help wherever he can.” The judges described Stephen as being someone who “brings people together with his all-inclusive approach which creates an atmosphere of openness and trust”

Outstanding Employee


John Ramsay – Project Supervisor at Brian Hendry Interiors

Not only is John an ‘Outstanding Employee’ for the company, but he is ‘Employee 001’, being the company’s very first employee back in 2004 when he took the risk to join what was then a start-up business.

Gordian Mothersole, the company’s business development manager, described John as being an exceptional project supervisor, someone who continually leads by example, who was fundamental to the company winning Gold Award in the inaugural FIS Scottish Awards and who site managers continually request to have back for repeat contracts.

The judges said: “John took a chance on a start-up and has shown a continued dedication to drive the business forward. He is a great asset to the business and very much respected by his peers.”

Lifetime Achievement


Phil Taylor – retired Estimator/ Director at Taylor Hart

Phil has worked in the interior fit-out sector for the last 30 years. Since setting up Taylor Hart in 1998, he made it his mission to develop people’s skills and knowledge, firstly to benefit the company but also to benefit individuals and industry as a whole.

What Phil learned from construction sites and installing ceilings and partitions was the vital importance of learning both on and off the job to improve one’s lot. He, therefore, encouraged learning and training wherever he could: ‘training others’ became a company mantra, and all his employees and subcontractors knew that training was a given. He has brought people through the company from teenagers to the senior positions they hold today.

Phil is described as being “widely loved by everyone – colleagues, suppliers and customers – for his passion, inspiration, guidance, mentorship as well as his great sense of humour”.