SPARK Energy has outlined plans to expand staff numbers by 40 per cent with the creation of 160 new positions.

The majority of the jobs will be based in the energy supplier’s Selkirk base, with the new roles being filled throughout 2018 across customer service and back-office departments including IT, finance, legal and compliance, human resources and training.

The company said that with most of its current 416 staff living within ten miles of the Borders town, it was making “an invaluable contribution to the jobs market in the local area”.

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Spark, which has carved out a niche by operating solely in the rental housing markets, increased staff numbers by about 70 this summer, but its swelling customer base – which has now passed 400,000 – has necessitated the current expansion plans.

Having expanded the services it offers in the last year, Spark has said more will follow in 2018, which it claims will make the home-move process “even more rewarding for letting agents and tenants.”

The recruitment drive was announced as Spark announced it had delivered more than 23,000 hours of training since opening an on-site academy one year ago.

Since being opened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 125 customer service staff have been trained alongside 67 employees in non-customer facing roles, who each received a two-day induction within the facility. Furthermore, each new customer service recruit spends five-weeks learning the ropes at the facility.

Spark’s director of people and culture, John Hawkins, said: “Most of Spark’s staff live within 10 miles of Selkirk, but we’re growing quickly and now have teams in Edinburgh and Horsham, so we’re always on the lookout for new talent to help the business provide a great experience for our customers.

“The Spark Academy is a vital part of this process – it’s the incubator where each new recruit spends time to learn about us, our customers and culture and of course about their role. The current team also benefit from courses designed to develop their skills and careers.”

As part of its commitment to skills development, Spark’s learning and development manager, Katherine Crowe is on the board of the Borders Industry Group and leads Spark’s work supporting local schools and helping young people develop their employability skills.

Spark Energy’s expansion comes at a time when the UK energy sector is under intense scrutiny over pricing structures. In October, the UK Government announced plans to introduce an energy price cap which will be enforced by the energy regulator Ofgem.

It is believed that customers on standard tariffs pay around £300 a year more for their energy than consumers who shop around for the most cost-effective deals.

Seeing an opportunity to offer such deals exclusively in the private lettings sector, Spark Energy was founded in 2007 by Canadian entrepreneur, PJ Darling.

Expansion into the social housing market followed for the firm and in June 2016, chief executive Chris Gauld led a management buyout backed by four institutional investors, including a major UK pension fund, a European family office and a Middle Eastern investment bank.

Having declared the firm could double in size in two years, Spark subsequently made its first acquisition in May this year, moving into the broadband market with the addition of Sussex-based Home Telecom.

That move, said Mr Gauld, made the firm “the only genuine multi-utility company for tenant customers”.

Spark now offers TV services through a deal struck with Sky that gives tenants contracts for the length of their tenancy.

The most recent available accounts for the company, which cover the year to June 2016 and pre-date the MBO, show that Spark made a £4 million pre-tax profit on revenue of £126m.