By Jes Staley, Group Chief Executive, Barclays

EARLIER this week I launched Barclays’ Thriving Local Economies programme in Kilmarnock: the start of a three-year commitment to work with local partners including the council, schools and colleges, community groups and local business, to identify the path to a better economic future for the town.

We are making this sustained commitment to partnership in the town because we understand that we don’t have all the answers, and we know that finding solutions and making a real difference to the future of Kilmarnock will take time. But we can already see clearly some of the most important challenges that we will all need to work together to tackle.

Kilmarnock has a proud heritage in heavy industry and manufacturing – and the town has produced no fewer than two Nobel Prize winners, Alexander Fleming, the inventor of penicillin, and John Boyd Orr, who went on to become a doctor, businessman, leading nutritionist, politician and founding member of the United Nations Food Programme.

Yet today, Kilmarnock’s confidence in the future is low. Less than one-third of local businesses are optimistic about the future of Kilmarnock’s economy, and almost three-quarters think that young people in the town are not effectively prepared for the world of work.

Surprisingly, these findings come at a time when unemployment is low. In fact, Barclays is doubling its own workforce in Scotland to 5,000 people right now, through the creation of high-quality, high-skilled jobs at our new Tradeston campus in Glasgow.

But as important as our great cities are, we believe that a sustainable economic future for the UK – and for Barclays – depends on inclusive economic growth; on healthy local economies that support strong local communities.

To survive, Barclays needs to be able to provide mortgages to help people get on the housing ladder, and loans for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses across the UK, not just in the metropolitan hotspots. The same is true for the UK as a whole: there will never be enough millionaires in Mayfair or Edinburgh to meet the economic costs for the country if we allow towns like Kilmarnock to be left behind.

That’s why the Kilmarnock Thriving Local Economies programme is starting by listening to local people. Businesses there have told us that they need more people with “future skills”: problem-solving, communication and emotional intelligence.

So when I met the students at St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock I committed to our first step in this effort, enhancing our LifeSkills programme which is building the skills that employers need, and is designed specifically for the local secondary schools and the college.

Over the next three years we will undertake detailed research to identify the drivers of, and barriers to, local economic success, learning from what is already happening on the ground, and we will share our findings with the local community in order to understand what works best.

As a result, I hope that the young people who are studying in Kilmarnock today will have a better chance to realise their full potential, and to be part of a strong and prosperous local community in the town long into the future. And I hope that some of the lessons we learn can be applied to support a more sustainable future for other towns and communities across the country.

Because working alongside local people on the ground to help all our communities to flourish and recover their confidence in the future is the best way to secure jobs, growth, prosperity (and perhaps even more Nobel Prizes) for the country as a whole.