An innovative initiative that will support hundreds of people in South Lanarkshire into training, education or employment has been officially launched.

The Connect2Renewables (C2R) Employability Initiative is a partnership between Banks Renewables, South Lanarkshire Council and the local communities surrounding Middle Muir and Kype Muir Wind Farms to transform prospects for people unemployed or facing job uncertainties living within 10 kilometres of the wind farms.  

According to Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse SNP MSP, Christina McKelvie, this is the largest fund of its type resulting from a wind farm in the region – and for the first five years will see a guaranteed £637,500 ring-fenced for local organisations – creating jobs and apprenticeships, as well as training and grants.

The fund was formally launched on Monday 19 November by MSP, Christina McKelvie, at a well-attended event at St Bride’s Centre in Douglas, Lanark, ML11 0PT. 

Speaking at the launch, Christina said: “Connect2Renewables is a great initiative and an excellent example of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together.  Banks Renewables, South Lanarkshire Council and the local communities are to be commended for their involvement in this innovative initiative.  Connect2Renewables will help build stronger communities, create clean green energy and create jobs for local people.

“It is estimated that, across South Lanarkshire, Connect2Renewables will provide a minimum of £69 million of local economic benefits for the area through the development, construction and operational activities associated with Banks Renewables’ Middle Muir and Kype Muir wind farms.

“Today we are announcing that the employability fund generated by Middle Muir is now live.  I am convinced this fund will make a real difference to people throughout the area.

“The employability fund generated by Kype Muir will become available in early 2019 and will be available to people in Strathaven, Stonehouse, Sandford, Lesmahagow and Blackwood / Kirkmuirhill.  This fund will make a real difference to people seeking better prospects in these areas.

“Connect2Renewables will generate a £1.74 million jobs and training fund that will support more than 400 local unemployed people into work, provide further education or workplace training – by breaking down the financial barriers that may be holding people back.”

SNP Councillor John Ross, Leader of South Lanarkshire Council, said: "This initiative is ground-breaking and demonstrates the power and potential of public and private sectors working together.

“I'm delighted that South Lanarkshire Council is playing such a hands-on role in distributing the funding linked to the employability initiative."

C2R was launched in 2014 and is an initiative between Hamilton-based employer Banks Renewables, communities neighbouring its developments and South Lanarkshire Council. The charter seeks to maximise the social and economic benefits to the local area resulting from the firm’s wind farms in South Lanarkshire – the first of which to be built are Middle Muir and Kype Muir.

The 15-turbine Middle Muir Wind Farm, which has just been constructed, will start supplying green electricity to the national grid by the end of the year.

From 2019, the fund will be further boosted – and will also support those living within 10 kilometres of the nearby 88.4 MW Kype Muir Wind Farm, a major 26-turbine Banks Renewables project that is under construction at the moment.

The purpose of the employability initiative is to help unemployed people overcome real and perceived barriers to work, training or education. It will provide a flexible and responsive employability programme to meet needs of employers and individuals.

It will also help up-skill or re-skill local unemployed people to help them gain key transferrable skills in an increasingly competitive labour market.

Colin Anderson, development director with Banks Renewables, said: “This initiative has the potential to transform the lives of so many people in the community.

“South Lanarkshire is a fantastic region and it is where our business is based. But it has felt the brunt of declining industries and there is so much to be done to improve employment outlooks.

“Our C2R partnership with South Lanarkshire Council and the local communities has been incredibly positive. It shows that the local authority is striving to improve the local economy – and we’re delighted to be a key part of that.”

The 15-turbine Middle Muir Wind Farm near Crawfordjohn is a significant investment into the local economy by Banks Renewables, and local businesses have benefitted throughout the planning and construction process – including principal contractors, RJ McLeod and drilling firm Raeburn Drilling.

Middle Muir and a further major South Lanarkshire wind farm, Kype Muir, will have a combined capacity of 139MW.