Barclays to boost Kilmarnock economy with three-year pilot

Barclays chief executive Jes Staley is to launch the bank's second Thriving Local Economies drive at a Kilmarnock school today. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown/Barclays/PA Wire
Barclays chief executive Jes Staley is to launch the bank's second Thriving Local Economies drive at a Kilmarnock school today. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown/Barclays/PA Wire
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Barclays has chosen ­Kilmarnock as the first ­Scottish town to pilot its ­initiative that aims to “supercharge” local economies and upskill the workforce.

Chief executive Jes Staley is to launch the bank’s second Thriving Local Economies drive at a school in the ­Ayrshire town today. The lender will join forces with local leaders for a three-year study as it aims to identify how to help businesses and stimulate growth in the area.

As part of the project, the bank will provide support to start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs, while ­giving all secondary schools in Kilmarnock access to its LifeSkills programme that helps pupils to prepare for the world of work.

Barclays staff will join ­outreach charity Business in the Community to host ­sessions for 12 to 14-year-olds specifically designed to build the skills required by businesses in the local area.

The lender found that just 28 per cent of Kilmarnock businesses feel optimistic about the local economy, with ­Brexit and rising wages cited as the biggest challenges in the year ahead.

Just one in ten (12 per cent) of Kilmarnock organisations think applicants have the right skills to match their jobs and 72 per cent think schoolchildren are not effectively prepared for the world of work.

Staley will meet with leaders from East Ayrshire Council, small and medium-sized enterprises and business groups including The Halo to hear their economic outlook and skills challenges, while he will also host a community event at Ayrshire College.

The pilot in Scotland follows the first study of its kind by Barclays in Greater Manchester.

The lender last year revealed plans to create up to 2,500 jobs at a new base in Glasgow.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Staley said: “If we want businesses and our economy to grow, and our young people to succeed, then we need to ensure investment in opportunities takes place not just in big cities, but also in communities like Kilmarnock, so that they can become the engine rooms of job creation and growth.”

Marie Macklin, founder and executive chair of the Halo Urban Regeneration Company, said: “We’re looking forward to working with Barclays and our other partners to draw on their expertise and resources as we strive collectively to generate economic growth, innovation, enterprise and digital skills development in Kilmarnock.”

Barclays plans to work with two further pilot areas in the programme: a rural community, and a coastal town.