Kilmarnock is the first Scottish town Barclays has chosen to pilot an initiative which aims to “supercharge” local economies and upskill the workforce.
This is the second of four pilot schemes the bank has planned around the UK, after launching its first initiative in Bury last year. Barclays will conduct a study in order to determine how to boost the local economy.
As part of its Thriving Local Economies scheme, Barclays will collaborate with local leaders across government, business and education.
The scheme aims to boost the aspirations and skills of children and adults in the town to prepare them for the “future world of work” – as well as fostering the skills that “nationwide” businesses are looking for.
From August 2019, Kilmarnock secondary schools will be able to access the bank’s LifeSkills programme which seeks to equip people with crucial professional skills.
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In addition, Barclay’s will provide support for start-ups, development and growth of small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs.
Barclay’s found that just 28% of Kilmarnock businesses feel optimistic about the local economy, with Brexit and rising wages cited as the biggest challenges in 2020.
Concerningly, just one in ten (12%) of organisations in the Ayrshire town think applicants possess the necessary skills required to match their jobs, while 72% believe schoolchildren are not adequately prepared for the world of work. Last year the bank revealed plans to create up to 2,500 jobs at a new technology and operations hub in Glasgow by 2021.
Jes Staley, Barclays chief executive explained: “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.”
Commenting on the scheme, UK government minister Lord Duncan said: “Projects like this can work well alongside UK government initiatives underway to create opportunities, jobs and long-term growth right across Scotland. This includes our modern Industrial Strategy and the £1.35bn we have committed through the city and growth deals.”
Scottish Economy Secretary, Derek Mackay, also said he would welcome the initiative and emphasised the need for greater focus on skills investment.
“Areas like Kilmarnock, just like all parts of Scotland, need the right conditions for sustainable economic growth,” he said. “That means skills and people alongside the right assets, infrastructure and investment, working together in partnership to deliver a more successful economy.”