FPDC and AIS have unveiled plans to merge and create a unified trade association that will campaign on behalf of the fit-out and building finishes sector.

A prospectus outlining the benefits was sent to FPDC members last week and both associations have started to hold a series of consultations. The intention is to merge around April next year. Both associations represent very similar skills and trades and typically work with the same, or very similar, customers who have the same needs from contractors and suppliers.

In addition to the benefits members currently enjoy the new body will aim to gain greater industry recognition and improve the depth and scope of services to members.

Both organisations are looking to combine their strengths and demonstrate leadership to create a more representative and effective organisation. The merged AIS and FPDC entity would position itself at the top of the supply chain and be the organisation representing the fit-out and building finishes sector.

FPDC and AIS are currently limited by guarantee so the new association will also be limited by guarantee. In order to keep the process as simple as possible it is proposed to amend the existing articles and memorandum of AIS to facilitate the objectives of the new organisation.

The new organisation will initially have two categories of membership: contractor members and product manufacturer and distributor members. The board of the new association will contain a natural majority for the contractor base of seven to five.

It is proposed that Angela Mansell, the current president of FPDC and a contractor member, will be the first president of the merged organisation for a single year, after which a current AIS board member will become president for a two-year term.

All current staff will be retained by the new organisation, which will be based in Solihull. The lease on the FPDC office in Cheapside is due to expire in 2014 and at that point it is proposed to close down that office.

The two organisations currently have different subscription models. AIS subscriptions are based on a flat fee, whilst FPDC’s are banded based on turnover. The new board will seek to harmonise the subscription levels of the two associations. New subscription levels will become effective from 1 January 2015 and will be determined by the first board.

Following considerable discussion about the name of the new body it is proposed to take a two-stage approach. Initially the names and logos of both organisations will be retained, with an underpinning strap along the lines of AIS FPDC -‘The finishes & fit-out association’. After a period of time the new board will decide upon a full rebrand for the new organisation.

Training and skills must be at the core of the association’s activities. The new association will make a commitment to have a fully carded (an appropriate CSCS skills card; not a green card) workforce by 2020.

A plan is being developed from the research report conducted on behalf of FPDC and AIS by Dr Karin Stockerl. This should provide a clear and attractive career path for new entrants to include craft and managerial training elements. It should be flexible and modular and form an apprenticeship for interiors and building finishes.

An experienced worker route will also be available to bring workers already in the system to gain an appropriate skills card. A minimum equivalent of NVQ2 should be the benchmark.

Funding for this project is being sought from CITB and administered through the National Interior Specialists Training Group (NISTG) which is currently administered by AIS. Members are automatically enrolled in the group.

The association will continue to campaign for reform of the levy through constructive, research-based, evidential lobbying and will seek to build alliances with other groups with similar concerns.

Further details and a copy of the merger prospectus members can contact FPDC either by calling 020 7634 9480 or emailing info@fpdc.org