29 Mar 2017

Minister unveils Digital Xtra Fund as Scotland’s first dedicated digital skills charity for young people

The Digital Xtra Fund has become Scotland’s first charity dedicated to supporting a full range of digital skills initiatives for young people aged 16 and under after receiving official charitable status from Scottish charity regulator, OSCR.

Digital Xtra is now calling on Scotland’s tech industry to contribute donations, sponsorships and offers of in kind support to ensure that extracurricular digital initiatives are available to young people wherever they live and whatever their background.

Funding has also been provided by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, whose partners include Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Funding Council, Education Scotland, ScotlandIS, and industry representatives.

The announcement was made by Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, speaking in Glasgow at Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together 2017.

A key objective of the new charity is to promote gender balance by encouraging more girls to engage in digital and consider STEM subjects while in school.

Ms Somerville said: “The Digital Xtra Fund is an example of the Scottish Government’s determination to close the digital skills gap faced by all sectors across the economy.

“Investment in the digital skills of our young people is crucial to Scotland’s future which is why we are extremely proud to fund Digital Xtra which has been a key partnership project from the Digital Technologies Skills Investment Plan.

“We must provide opportunities for our children and young people to develop their digital skills from a young age and Digital Xtra is doing just that, offering thousands of young people opportunities to strengthen their skills in this area through engagement in a range of innovative projects.”

The new Scottish Government Digital Strategy sets out its ambition to create conditions in which Scotland can increase the number of people employed in digital technology roles to 150,000 by 2021.

Increasing digital participation and preparing your people for the digital future by improving digital skills levels will be an integral component of this strategy. Career opportunities are significant, with an estimated 12,800 job opportunities available in Scotland annually.

The Digital Xtra Fund is appealing for support from companies that wish to support young people and want to see a coordinated, sustainable and inclusive approach, gaining maximum value from coalescing funds.

BT Scotland and Be Positive are two of the first industry supporters to have made a contribution to the Digital Xtra Fund.

Brendan Dick, Director of BT Scotland, said: “Digital skills are increasingly seen as a prerequisite, as important to the prospects of young people today as reading and writing. It’s essential our young people are equipped with the skills they need for the world of work, and the public, private and voluntary sectors all have a contribution to make in giving them the best possible chances.”

He continued: “Supporting Digital Xtra will help us build a culture of tech literacy, as BT works to reach five million young people across the UK by 2020. We hope many Scottish businesses will join us in backing the Digital Xtra Fund.”

Vicky Di Ciacca, Director at Be Positive, said: “It is vitally important that all young people are equipped to take on the challenge of our increasingly digital world. We are a small business and expect our future employees to lead the way when it comes to technology and how to harness it. Regardless of an individual’s ambitions and aspirations, digital skills are integral to engaging in the world of work and beyond.”

Digital Xtra will work to build stronger links between young people and Scotland’s tech industry, promote the range of pathways into the tech sector, and broaden the talent pipeline by targeting underrepresented groups.

The Digital Xtra Fund was launched in May 2016, and has to date distributed £400,000 to organisations delivering extracurricular activities, with funding provided by the partners of the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership.

The 22 projects funded so far are expected to reach 15,000 school pupils across every local authority area in Scotland. Funded initiatives include the training of over 140 librarians to deliver Code Clubs, the expansion of Apps for Good across Scotland and initiatives that use the design of lighthouses to introduce ‘little engineers’ to STEM concepts.

Phil Worms, Computing and Schools Project Lead at ScotlandIS, said: “It’s our aim to ensure that young people of all ages and backgrounds throughout Scotland have the opportunity to develop the skills required to thrive in our digital world. We need to inspire our younger generations, especially girls, in technology and digital. The Digital Xtra Fund charity will not only help us achieve this but will also offer tangible support to our education sector and act as a vehicle for industry support. ”

Paul Zealey, Digital Xtra Fund trustee and Skills Planning Lead at SDS, said: “Digital Xtra’s work to date is incredibly impressive, having impacted the lives of thousands of young people across Scotland as they become engaged and inspired by our digital world. We are off to a great start with the funding that Digital Xtra has already received and we hope that this will encourage others to follow suit and show their support for the charity.”

Joyce MacLennan, Head of Finance and Business Services at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “We need to offer opportunities for all of Scotland’s future young workforce to develop digital skills, especially young people in more rural areas who struggle to attend events or access activities. Digital Xtra helps overcome barriers, increase participation and explore opportunities to extend the reach of successful projects.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. A Board of trustees has been appointed to set the strategic direction of the charity and evaluate and review the initiatives that will receive funding. This expert panel is made up of representatives from across Scotland’s digital technology industry, including iomart, Fujitsu, Dogfi.sh Mobile, SCVO, ScotlandIS and Skills Development Scotland.

2. The Digital Xtra Fund will announce its plans and application processes in the near future, and it expects to welcome applications from existing initiatives looking to expand their activities, as well as from new and innovative projects that could be rolled out further in future. All applicants must be able to demonstrate potential for scalability and sustainability, as well as showing how they will reach previously underrepresented groups.

3. Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) registered in Scotland SC047272

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23 Mar 2017

Digital Xtra Fund shortlisted for Digital Tech Awards

Digital Xtra Fund has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Education Provider/Training Programme category, sponsored by Administrate, at this year’s ScotlandIS Digital Tech Awards.

The category recognises inspirational, practical and effective education and training solutions that identify and maximise the skills required for today’s business.

The Digital Xtra Fund was launched in May 2016 and has distributed £400,000 to organisations delivering extracurricular computing and digital activities to under 16s across Scotland.

Partners of the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership have provided the funding to date.

So far 22 projects have been funded by Digital Xtra and are expected to reach 15,000 school pupils across every local authority area in Scotland in digital activities. Funded initiatives have included the training of over 140 librarians to deliver CodeClubs, the expansion of Apps for Good across Scotland through to the use of lighthouse design to introduce ‘little engineers’ to STEM concepts.

CodeClan and The Data Lab are recognised as the other finalists in this award category.

CodeClan, which operates in Edinburgh and Glasgow, is Scotland’s first dedicated software skills academy designed to teach graduates core coding skills over a 16 week period. Many of the students find employment at the end of the course. Data Lab enables new collaborations between industry, public sector and universities driven by common interests in the exploitation of data science. It provides resources and funding to kick-start projects, deliver skills and training, and help to develop the local ecosystem by building a cohesive data science community.

The awards, now in their seventh year, celebrate the talent and ideas abundant in Scotland’s world-class digital technologies industry. This year the awards received a huge number of entries from a diverse range of companies and organisations, reflecting the health of the sector. The judging panel included experts, champions and influencers from across the breadth of the nation’s digital technology industry and the public sector.

Polly Purvis CEO of ScotlandIS said: “We are a small country with outstanding capabilities reflected in the diversity, scale and sheer innovation of the companies on the shortlist. The continued success of the industry is reflected in the awards, which highlight the wealth of opportunities available to those considering a career in this vibrant sector. ”

The winners of the Digital Tech Awards will be revealed at a gala night at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu Hotel on Thursday 27th April 2017.

ScotlandIS Award Image by Guy Hinks

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10 Mar 2017

Minister to address event to tackle gender gap in technology

Scotland’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science is to deliver a ministerial address highlighting the importance of tackling the gender gap in technology at a dedicated conference at the Strathclyde Technology Innovation Centre on Wednesday 29 March.

Ms Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP will join representatives from industry, education and public sector at Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together 2017, an event to share good practice and support organisations to encourage more females into digital technology.

The interactive and practical event will show individuals and organisations how they can take action to support women at every stage of the talent pipeline, from school to employment. The event is open to all and suitable for educators, employers and organisations working at all stages of the pipeline. A hub event will take place in Inverness on Thursday 30 March.

It follows the launch of Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together (TTGGT), an informative report into women in tech in Scotland commissioned by the Digital Technologies Skills Group and completed by Edinburgh Napier University.

The report found that women account for 18 per cent of those in digital technology roles in Scotland, with the gender gap in the talent pipeline starting at school.

It identified a prime opportunity to tackle the skills gap and attract more women into digital technology roles through targeted intervention and on-going support at every stage of the skills pipeline, from school to employment and retention.

Actions in progress include greater and improved use of role models in schools, extending the reach of technology into other subjects, promoting the benefits of gender parity and flexible workplaces, and supporting employers to attract, retain and promote female participation.

Delegates will hear from schools, tech clubs, colleges, universities, employers and organisations who have all been successful in engaging and supporting females into digital technology. There will also be the opportunity to take part in one of four interactive workshops.

Evelyn Walker, chair of Digital Technologies Skills Group’s Gender Work Stream and UK & Ireland Project Management Lead for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will open the event.

She says: “This event is an opportunity to share real world projects, tactics, tools and success stories which will help more individuals and organisations to get involved in tackling the gender gap.”

“Research indicates that there are a lot of females who are open to the idea of working in tech. To turn that willingness into a real increase in the number of women in our sector we need to reach, support and inspire them to take the next steps.”

Presentations, panel discussions and workshops will be delivered by: Ayrshire College, BCS Women, CAS Ltd, Education Scotland, Equate Scotland, FanDuel, FDM, HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise), J.P. Morgan, QA, SmartSTEMs, St Kentigern’s Academy, Wick High School.

A hub event in Inverness on Thursday 30 March will focus specifically on how to attract and retain women in the technology workplace and onto digital technology related courses at College and University. Delegates will have the opportunity to hear from speakers from the Glasgow event as well as a taking part in a round table discussion to share best practice and network with businesses from across the North of Scotland.

Register for Glasgow: HERE

Register for Inverness: HERE

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