Barclays Group CEO Jes Staley visited a 40-year-old family-run bus refurbishment company in Northumberland as part of a tour of businesses across the North East of England.
The firm, which was founded in Ashington by brothers George and Keith Thornton with a £25,000 Barclays loan back in 1979 and is still a Barclays customer today, hosted Staley for the announcement of a new £500m Growth Fund for SMEs across the North of England, the bank’s latest commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.
George and Keith’s business, which employs a number of other family members and over 70 highly-skilled engineers, helps transport providers from across the country to modernise their fleets and serve UK communities.
Alongside other small and medium businesses across the region, they will now be able to apply to the fund to help finance growth and investment.
Staley said: “Barclays has been helping businesses across the North to succeed since the Industrial Revolution – the first ‘Northern Powerhouse’, when we financed the world’s first steam locomotive passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington.
“Today, we face new economic challenges and opportunities posed by the digital revolution, the growth in competition from emerging markets, and of course, Brexit.”
Lord Jim O’Neill, former HM treasury minister and vice chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, of which Barclays is a founder member, said: “This major fund from Barclays will significantly increase the potential of our SMEs across the Northern Powerhouse to embrace the next Industrial Revolution, incorporating innovation such as robotics and AI into everything they do.”
During his visit to the North East, Jes Staley visited Barclays’ Sunderland-based Contact Centre to meet Skybranch colleagues and chat to apprentices about the benefits of gaining valuable work experience alongside studying for a qualification.
Confirming that future hiring at the bank’s Sunderland and Liverpool centres will have a clear focus on apprenticeships, Jes Staley said: “Our apprentices are a vital asset to our business, and we’re determined to continue our investment in these high-quality jobs.
“We’ve discovered at Barclays that the ‘can-do’ attitude our apprentices have means they are excellent at helping our customers and clients, so from now on every time we hire a new retail entry level colleague in Sunderland or Liverpool, we will actively look to give someone the life-changing career opportunity that a quality apprenticeship provides.”
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