Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hailed a booming Selkirk company as one of the most exciting in Scotland while announcing the creation of 69 new jobs there.
The new posts at Spark Energy, an independent power supplier to the tenant and social housing sectors, takes the company’s headcount to 417, making it one of the biggest private-sector employers in the Borders.
The jobs announcement was made as Ms Sturgeon officially opened the Spark Academy, the firm’s new in-house training centre located at its headquarters in the former Ettrick Riverside Tweed mill.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Spark Energy is one of the most exciting companies in Scotland today – indeed, one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK, with a growth forecast of 40% this year, supplying energy to 200,000 homes across the country.
“It is a really a fantastic example of the dynamic, innovative growth companies that we want to see more of in Scotland.
“Since the official opening of Spark back in 2007, this highly-innovative company has gone from strength to strength.
“With its continued investment, the creation of 69 new roles and the establishment of this new training academy, Spark Energy is a major employer in the Scottish Borders.
“I’ve been really impressed on the quick tour I have had today on the focus given to the skills of staff and good customer service, and this academy is really an investment in the people who work here.
“This is a good example of a company that takes the skills and training of its staff seriously. It’s important to the success of the business, and it’s also important to ensure that staff are happy in their work.
“It really underlines the economic ethos that we are trying to promote in Scotland of inclusive growth, that companies that look after their staff do better.
“This is the kind of company that the Borders needs.
“We are focused on growing jobs here in the Borders, and here is a company that is deliberately choosing to be situated here, and the training academy is important because having the ability to bring staff in and upskill them on the job means that it is more possible for a company like this to recruit locally.”
Most of Spark’s staff live within 10 miles of Selkirk, making an invaluable contribution to the jobs market in an area of high unemployment.
Two thirds of the new jobs will be in front and back-office customer service teams, with the remainder recruited to specialist departments such as IT, finance, legal and compliance, human resources and training.
Spark Energy chief executive Chris Gauld said: “Our investment in the academy means that those joining the company will receive their induction and training in a purpose-built facility that reflects our ambition, our culture, values and the professional standards we set.
“I’m excited to see us develop more and better ways to attract new talent to Spark through our school and college links, as well as our growing apprentice programme.
“Recruiting, retaining and developing great people is a win-win for our business, our employees and, ultimately, our customers.”
Spark is said to have received substantial backing from Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Investment Bank.
It has also joined the board of the Borders Developing Young Workforce initiative, a Scottish Government programme to prepare young people for work. It employs five modern apprentices, with a further five joining soon.