18 Jun 2019

Gender Imbalance in Tech Industry Starts at School, warns Digital Xtra Fund

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Gender imbalance is a huge challenge for the digital technologies industry, with women making up just 23% of the Scottish tech workforce despite 51% of the population being female.

Digital Xtra Fund, a charity set-up to encourage more young people to take part in extracurricular digital activities and inspire them to consider a career in tech, is warning businesses that this gender imbalance starts from a very young age and the best way to tackle it is through inspiring more girls and young women early on.

The percentage of girls taking computer related studies at National 3-5 has dropped from 32% in 2012 to 18% in 2018. Kraig Brown, Partnership & Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, says this is the number we need to focus on to make a real difference to the future workforce.

He explains: “It is essential we inspire more girls to get into tech from primary school, leading to increased uptake in secondary and therefore more women completing Higher and Further Education with a variety of technology related qualifications. Only by focussing on the talent pipeline from the beginning can we make a tangible difference in the end. However, despite considerable effort, we simply do not have enough computing science teachers to reach the level of engagement required to achieve this, and these numbers are getting worse. In 2008 there were 766 computing teachers in Scottish secondary schools, while in 2017 there were only 582 – a 24% reduction.

“More needs to be done out with the classroom to support teachers and engage more girls and young women in tech. We need to show young women what is possible and make it fun by supporting accessible and relatable activities. Taking tech out of the classroom can also help make the link from something they enjoy and is important to them, to a future career. When you are shown how to do something, such as coding or data analysis, and also understand why the end result is relevant, it’s only natural to be drawn in. For example, research has shown that girls are more likely to engage with STEM subjects when there is an obvious benefit to society or their communities which is why we see a higher proportion of women in life sciences and medicine than in other areas of science and technology.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently supporting several initiatives who are doing a fantastic job engaging girls and young women including: Glasgow Life, who are targeting young women by combining technology with fashion and design; Banchory Primary School in Clackmannanshire who are combining coding and robotics with music and dance; and Firpark Secondary School in North Lanarkshire who are running an all-female VEX robotics after school club.

Brown adds: “In addition to engaging girls at a young age, it is also important we improve the links between education and industry to ensure these young women, their parents, and teachers have the opportunity to understand the range of rewarding job opportunities in the tech sector. These links also give girls and young women the opportunity to see and speak with women currently in these roles to act as examples and mentors. This is where organisations like SWiT (Scotland Women in Technology) who have partnered with Digital Xtra Fund to support activities targeting girls and young women, play a pivotal role in inspiring the next generation of women in tech.  SWiT  raised funds contributing towards a donation of £5,000 to the Digital Xtra Fund this year.”

Elaine McKechnie, Vice Chair for SWIT commented: “We are delighted to support such a great cause for women and young girls in Scotland that can really impact a positive shift in gender for the future workforce.  The Digital Xtra fund is exactly the type of organisation we’re proud to partner with as part of the Scottish eco-system to encourage more women in tech.”

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06 May 2019

May I have a slice of pizza with some extra data please…

Barefoot Computing, a BT-sponsored programme helping teachers bring computer science to life in the classroom, are very excited to introduce their latest data-focused resource…a Pizza Party! Each Barefoot Pizza Party is a five-lesson resource that teaches 7 to 11-year-old pupils about data. It teaches young people about collection, analysis and evaluation using something nearly every 7 to 11-year-old can understand – pizza.

Using various methods of collecting and analysing data, pupils will work together throughout the five lessons to plan a pizza party for their class. To help facilitate this, Barefoot are providing the first 200 primary schools to request a workshop using the code ‘PIZZA’ with a pizza box full of goodies. This includes a poster, stickers, a lesson overview, a recipe card, a shopping list and a chef’s hat.

Once the school has completed their workshop, they will be provided with a £25 gift voucher that can be used to purchase the ingredients for making their own pizzas. This has been done to ensure that all primary schools, no matter their budget, can enjoy a pizza party. There are also suggestions provided of how to take part if a school doesn’t have cooking facilities.

Schools that have already had a workshop can get involved too simply by downloading the resource. Every week from 6 May 2019 until 28 June 2019, a prize draw will take place with a winning school chosen at random. That school will then be sent their own pizza box, with 40 additional boxes created exactly for this purpose.

As with all other Barefoot resources, this is fully curriculum aligned and completely free. This campaign, with its inclusive incentives, is designed to draw attention to data – an often overlooked, yet crucial element of computing. Pizza Party makes data not only relatable, but exciting. And the promise of delicious homemade pizza means that pupils will stay engaged right until the end.

Teachers can register and download the resource from the Barefoot website from the 29 April onwards.

 

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01 May 2019

Skyscanner commits to inspiring next generation of digital leaders

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Skyscanner has increased its contribution to Digital Xtra Fund’s grants programme to £32,500, making it the Fund’s largest supporter from the private sector. The Fund provides grants to enable digital skills activities for young people across Scotland.

The Scottish company has a strong culture of giving back to the community and working with charities and start-ups. Now a tech unicorn, the company has committed to helping inspire the next generation of digital leaders. In 2018, Skyscanner formalised their charitable giving including a focus on supporting technology education and training at schools’ level and beyond.

Skyscanner has teamed up with Digital Xtra Fund to engage more young people in tech including girls and young women and areas excluded through lack of resources or facilities. As part of Digital Xtra Fund’s grant application process, activity providers are asked to describe how they will engage these key audiences and ultimately increase the number and diversity of young people learning advanced digital skills.

Skyscanner’s support has helped enable the Fund to double the 2019 grants programme to £100,000 and support 22 computing activities across the country. Topics include robotics, coding, app development and the Internet of Things. Supported activities are projected to engage 9,920 young people including 5,060 girls and young women this year.

Digital Xtra Fund believes that inspiring young people to understand and create with technology is essential to the future wellbeing of Scotland. The exponential growth of tech will only drive the demand for digital talent. If young people aren’t aware of this, or the range of jobs these skills open up, Scotland could be left behind. Reaching young people and changing long-held stereotypes can be a challenge though.

“How do young people even know about the world of tech? It’s not something I knew much about when I was at school,” explains Michael Hall, senior engineering manager, at Skyscanner.

“The work Digital Xtra Fund is doing is extremely important, and this is why we are so happy to increase our support. Encouraging the next generation to embrace digital learning and technology is vital for the future of Scotland’s thriving tech sector, as well as our wider economy. Our founder, Gareth, took his first steps towards building Skyscanner at the age of 11 when he started learning assembly language with his dad, creating his own basic computer games. More young people need these types of opportunities to see what is possible. We need to show young people that a career in tech is possible, exciting and very rewarding.”

“Skyscanner believes that charitable efforts should not only help people, but also create shared economic value with the community, in this case, by giving young people the skills they need to succeed whilst also developing a stronger, future talent pool for the Scottish tech industry. This is why our partnership with Digital Xtra Fund works so well. We want everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, location or economic background, to see tech as a welcoming and exciting career. We’re delighted to support the Fund and urge other like-minded businesses to do the same as we all need to take action now to ensure a strong future.”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, adds: “Skyscanner are a fantastic supporter of the Fund and really get what we are trying to achieve. The reality is there is a shortage of computer science teachers in Scotland; a 24% reduction over the past 10 years. It may not be enough to rely on formal education to reach all audiences. By supporting an ecosystem of extracurricular computing activities across Scotland, we can support teachers through other organisations and digital professionals who have the knowledge, enthusiasm and experience to speak about tech careers and teach these skills.

“Our goal is for all young people across Scotland to have access to digital activities and understand the near limitless possibilities these skills will provide. The numbers are very positive – nearly 10,000 young people engaging with tech this year alone – and we’re seeing the benefits these grants are creating. Partnering with more companies will enable us to only increase the impact year-on-year. Hopefully Skyscanner’s example can inspire other businesses and organisations to also partner with us so we can help reach even more young people.”

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24 Apr 2019

BT launches hunt for UK’s next young tech pioneer

BT ScotlandThe BT Young Pioneer Award, part of the annual Tech4Good awards, is officially open for nominations. The Award is open to all young people between the age of nine and 18 years old and allows BT to celebrate and nurture ingenious tech ideas and individuals who are transforming society.

The award winners will receive £5,000 of tech to help scale their project, as well as focused session with BT experts, to help develop their ideas and inventions. All of the finalists will receive tickets to explore Bletchley Park, the once top-secret home of World War 2 codebreakers. Young people can submit their entries online, with nominations closing on the 10th May.

Past winners and finalists of the Young Pioneer Award, including Arnav Sharma and Femi Owolade-Coombes, have gone on to become some of the UK’s brightest tech-talent. Owolade-Coombes is today delivering regular coding camps both in the UK and internationally, whilst Sharma is focusing on the development of new products to help people suffering with dementia. BT has partnered with the Tech4Good Awards since their conception in 2011 as part of its vision to empower young people with the digital skills to thrive.

Last year’s BT Young Pioneer Award was scooped by Water Watcher, a group of four young inventors aged between nine and 15 years old, for their device which tackles water wastage due to memory loss, dementia, dyslexia or brain injury. Small and inexpensive, the product can fit onto any tap and uses the vibrations of the water with a timer and alarm system to alert the user if the tap is left running. The device’s potential to save water and prevent flooding has been recognised by organisations such as Thames Water, WaterWise and Alzheimer’s Society.

Last year’s Highly Commended Award in the BT Young Pioneer Category went to Code Camp, a registered charity that was set up by 16-year-old Mahek Vara to teach computer programming skills to children in developing countries. So far it has reached over 70,000 students in India alone, equipping them with invaluable skills and knowledge.

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT, said: “‘BT is keen to find and support disruptive new technologies that improve people’s everyday lives. A new world is being shaped and created by the rapid acceleration of technologies, and we need a culture in the UK that celebrates tech for good entrepreneurs, who are at the forefront of making sure no one is left behind. And it’s even more exciting when these new ideas come from young people.”

For further information on how to enter the awards, please visit:

https://www.tech4goodawards.com/enter-now/

 

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14 Apr 2019

Young people are key to bridge the digital skills gap

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Inspiring young people to understand and create with technology is essential to Scotland’s economic development and future, and is something that business need to support.

The world is changing rapidly, ­largely driven by new technologies. While the pace of change may have caught ­businesses off guard in the past, most now ­realise the importance of investing in tech to remain competitive. However, the largest limiting factor isn’t a lack of funding or ­ideas, but a lack of talent.

Broadly speaking, the two main ways to develop future talent are to upskill the ­current workforce or inspire the next generation at school. Inevitably, the comment I hear about the latter is we “just” need more computing teachers in Scotland. While I agree, consider this first: in 2008 there were 766 computing teachers in Scotland, while in 2017 there were 582 – a 24 per cent reduction.

Last year in the Highlands, there were nine computing teachers ­covering 29 ­secondary schools across an area the size of Belgium. There are several reasons for this decline, but it isn’t due to a lack of demand. However, we can’t just snap our fingers and suddenly have hundreds more teachers in place. Much is being done to upskill non-computing teachers so they can incorporate digital skills across the curriculum, but we must also look at other options to inspire young people into tech.

Digital Xtra Fund was created to bring together businesses and organisations from the private and public sectors to fund and support extracurricular digital skills initiatives. Our goal is for all young people to have access to digitally creative activities, with a particular focus on activities that target girls and young women, or are delivered in areas often excluded through lack of resources or facilities.

To date, the fund has helped engage nearly 30,000 young people across Scotland by awarding a total of £550,000. This year’s funding will support 22 initiatives, covering topics from robotics and coding, to app development and the Internet of Things (IoT). Initiatives include Apps for Good, which teaches skills in app development, IoT, and machine learning in the ­context of tech for social good; Glasgow Life’s Wear-a:bits scheme to introduce coding and design skills using wearable technology; and Islay-based Port Ellen Primary School’s delivery of an afterschool robotics club where children will learn Scratch and Python, as well as how to programme with micro:bits, Lego Boost and other tech.

It’s also key that we provide context to these skills regarding career opportunities. Young people begin course selection in S2 (around age 12-13). At this age, it is obvious what a nurse or lawyer does, but what about a UX designer, Python developer, or scrum master? Why should we expect young people to choose computing studies if they don’t even understand what the career prospects are? This is where it is especially valuable to have industry involvement to ­provide ­first-hand experience and guidance.

Digital Xtra Fund is hugely grateful to industry partners who have enabled us to increase funds available from £50,000 to £100,000 for 2019. We are committed to helping young people learn the skills needed to succeed in a digital world – but we still need to do more.

There are still too many girls who assume computing is not for them and areas where young people don’t have any opportunity to take part. The fact that 82 per cent of Scottish households have internet access means little when it comes to these crucial digital skills. Think of it like this – just because you can drive doesn’t mean you can build a car.

We need to ensure young people have the appropriate skills to create with technology, not simply use it, and we will continue to grow with our network of partners and supporters until Scotland’s digital talent pool is more than sufficient for a nation built on invention and innovation.

– Kraig T Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund

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12 Mar 2019

BT-sponsored Barefoot Computing provides boost for computing lessons in Scottish schools

A programme to help teachers bring computer science to life in the classroom has already reached more than half of Scotland’s primary schools, according to new figures.

Latest numbers show that teachers from 69 per cent of primary schools in Scotland – a total of more than 6,700 teachers so far – have registered to use the BT-sponsored Barefoot Computing programme, which offers free, classroom-ready teaching resources.

Launched in 2017 in Scotland, the lessons are available to all primary schools and aim to help pupils aged between five and 11 years old to develop basic computing skills and computational thinking across all subjects. The free downloadable resources and materials have been tailored to the Scottish curriculum and have been backed by the Scottish Government. They are designed to help primary school teachers across Scotland, some of whom may not have specialist computing knowledge. The resources, available in English and Gaelic, promote problem-solving, creativity and collaboration among pupils. Barefoot volunteers, including BT employees, have now delivered more than 500 free workshops for teachers across Scotland to introduce them to the resources.

Carol Farquhar, principal teacher at Houston Primary School, said: “We have been pleased to be part of the Barefoot initiative. It’s been a great way to get the pupils further excited and inspired about computing and developing their digital skills.

“Technology and digital skills are an important part of the Curriculum for Excellence and bringing these ideas into our teaching has really helped to engage the children. The Barefoot resources are helpful and accessible.”

Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director at Education Scotland, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved in the BT tech literacy programme for working with us on this journey as we raise standards in our transformational curriculum.

“Digital skills are at the heart of our Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, because it’s crucial our learners have the tools and capabilities they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world. I look forward to continuing to work with BT to make these attractive and supportive resources accessible to all schools in Scotland.”

Jane Wood, BT Group UK nations and regions director, said: “I’m incredibly proud of how many teachers and children have been involved in the Barefoot programme and benefitted from the fantastic resources available.

“Increasingly, most jobs rely on people having digital skills. By 2022 the UK will need an additional 500,000 workers in digital industries, which is three times the number of computer science graduates the UK has produced in the last 10 years. The Barefoot resources not only deliver important tech skills, but also life skills.

“Well done to all the teachers, the Barefoot team and of course to the thousands of pupils from across Scotland who have made the programme the success it is today. We live in a world powered by technology. Let’s make sure the next generation can thrive in it and work together to get Barefoot to all of the 400,000 primary-aged children in Scotland, as fast as possible.”

Alongside the release of these figures, a new Barefoot website has also been launched which provides even more materials for teachers. Typical support consists of tasks designed to improve pupils’ understanding of concepts like algorithms in a way that improves their ability to think logically and sequentially but creatively. The website also includes new support which helps educate pupils on using the internet safely and what ‘consent’ means in terms of controlling their personal information and identity.

Teachers and parents can find more information and get the free resources at https://barefootcomputing.org

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22 Feb 2019

Polly Purvis OBE to retire as CEO of ScotlandIS

Facebook icon-whiteThe board of ScotlandIS, the membership and cluster management organisation for Scotland’s digital technologies industry, has announced that its CEO, Polly Purvis, is retiring this year. Polly also played an integral part in the formation of Digital Xtra Fund and has sat on the Charity’s Board since its inception in 2017.

Polly has been with ScotlandIS since its inception in 2000, and prior to that with the Scottish Software Federation from 1998. She has been CEO for six years and during that time has led the organisation to some great industry-wide successes. Polly will remain in post until a new CEO is appointed to ensure an orderly transition and will officially hand over to the new CEO at ScotSoft 2019.

The Board has also announced Karen Meechan has been promoted to chief operating officer, providing additional continuity to the membership and focussing on the continued growth of the organisation. Frances Sneddon, chair of ScotlandIS and CTO of SIMUL8 Corporation will work with Karen, Polly and the new CEO to build on the legacy that Polly has left. Between them, Karen and Frances have more than 40 years experience in the technology sector and more than 25 years helping to run ScotlandIS in an operational and board capacity.

Polly leaves both ScotlandIS, and the Scottish digital technology industry, in excellent shape.

Most recently, she helped secure support for ScotlandIS from Scottish Enterprise to develop industry clusters in data and cyber security, evolving ScotlandIS into a combined cluster management organisation and membership body.

Polly lobbied for the creation of the Skills Investment Plan (published in 2014); a strategy developed to create a strong and continuing supply of skills for the tech sector, underlining its crucial importance to the Scottish economy. Through a partnership between industry, SDS, SFC and other skills organisations the investment plan is creating a strong skills infrastructure to support future growth. Initiatives including CodeClan, Digital Xtra Fund, Digital Skills Partnership and the Digital Schools Programme have come out of the Skills Investment Plan and further work is underway addressing subjects as varied as gender balance in the industry and recruiting more computing teachers.

The formation of CodeClan, Scotland’s first and only SQA accredited digital skills academy, was spearheaded by Polly; she recognised an opportunity for career changers and returners to develop technology skills to help fill the increasing number of job vacancies in the sector and established CodeClan to meet this need. CodeClan is now producing over 400 technically skilled graduates a year in Edinburgh, Glasgow and its new Highlands campus in Inverness.

She also championed the formation of the Digital Xtra Fund, a charity dedicated to ensuring all young people across Scotland can benefit from hands on experience of computer science, coding and digital making regardless of geography or economic background. She has also continued to support the charity which has just awarded £100,000 in grants awards to 22 initiatives across Scotland.

Polly was one of the small bid team made up of industry people and academics which developed the proposal for the establishment of The Data Lab, and was also one of the founding team that established the dotScot Registry, Scotland’s top level internet domain.

Polly has represented ScotlandIS on the Scottish Government’s Digital Public Service Advisory Board, the ICT & Digital Technologies Skills Group, the Converge Challenge Advisory Board, the ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship board, the Scotland CAN Do Innovation board, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee’s School of Computing.

Polly also chairs the board of CodeClan, and is a Trustee of the Digital Xtra Fund.

Personally, Polly has been recognised for her impact on the Scottish tech sector, receiving a lifetime achievement award from Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP in 2015, an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2017 for services to the Scottish digital technologies industry, and the lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Women in Technology Awards 2018.

Commenting on the announcement, Polly Purvis said:

“I believe ScotlandIS is very well placed for its new phase of growth – we have a great staff team who share with the board an ambition to grow the business. We’re in the process of strengthening and complementing the existing team with new hires in the areas of data and cyber. We have a fabulous membership full of interesting, innovative and growing technology businesses who build and deliver high quality goods and services. So it’s a good time to hand on to someone who can bring fresh passion and a belief that technology can be a real force for good, and who can help develop the potential of the digital technologies industry as a major force in the new economy being built in Scotland.

“I won’t be leaving immediately, but likely following recruitment and handover, in the late summer. Alongside the new CEO, Karen Meechan will continue to support members in her new role as COO. Karen has been part of ScotlandIS for nearly as long as I have and she knows our members really well. She’s been the person who has made the organisation work day-to-day, growing the membership and creating the Digital Technology Awards – and she led ScotlandIS while I was setting up CodeClan. With our chair, Frances, our wider board and the new CEO, our members – and the industry – will be in excellent hands.”

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20 Feb 2019

£100K in funding awarded to help inspire Scotland’s next generation of digital experts

Grants totalling £100,000 have been awarded by Digital Xtra Fund to 22 extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland in a bid to create the next generation of digital experts.

The 22 extracurricular computing initiatives have been awarded grants of up to £5,000 each as part of the Fund’s fourth round of grant awards. The grants are designed to support some of Scotland’s hardest-to-reach young people and improve digital skills in areas such as coding, data science and computer-based problem-solving.

Pupils from Anderston Primary School take part in 'Tech Heroes'

The main focus of the grant awards is to engage and inspire those traditionally underrepresented in the technology industry, such as girls and young women, young people in rural areas, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Grant award recipients for 2019 include Wear-a:bits, which introduces the basics of coding through wearable technology to young people from areas of Glasgow facing multiple deprivation; STEAM Ahead, an initiative to teach coding and digital creativity at libraries in the Outer Hebrides; and Resilient Robotics, an Islay-based initiative designed to develop young people’s perseverance when building robots – a process that can sometimes require a lot of trial and error. Resources for Resilient Robotics will also be made available in Gaelic. Created in 2016, the goal of Digital Xtra Fund is for young people across Scotland to have access to digitally creative activities to increase the number of young people entering highly skilled digital careers, bridging the current skills gap in Scotland.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Today’s young people are the biggest consumers of technology, but we want to teach them how to create it, improve it, and encourage them to become Scotland’s next generation of tech leaders.

Pupils from Anderston PS speak with Kate Forbes MSP and Kraig Brown“There isn’t always an option for young people to learn advanced digital skills at school, and this is why our funding is so important, as it opens up additional opportunities for young people across a wide range of backgrounds.

“We’re also trying to get the message out there that you don’t have to work for a tech company if you’re into coding or data science. There are career opportunities in finance, hospitality, healthcare, agriculture, even fashion – every industry now relies on technology to some degree.”

Grant recipients were officially announced today at an event held at Anderston Primary School in Glasgow. The School’s Tech Heroes after-school club, supported by Digital Xtra Fund, will give pupils the opportunity to use Spheros, micro:bits, Osmo kits and Snap Circuits, as well as practice on-screen coding while they learn about the role of technology across various subjects.

The event was attended by Kate Forbes, MSP and Minster for Public Finance and Digital Economy, as well as representatives from Digital Xtra Fund, Skyscanner, J.P. Morgan, and the Micro:bit Educational Foundation.

Pupils at Anderston PS speak with Kate Forbes MSP (Digital Xtra Fund)Speaking at today’s announcement of the 22 recipients for 2019, the Minister said, “Technology is fundamental to young people’s lives and having digital skills opens up so many opportunities. We want to build a nation where all young people are comfortable using technology whatever their background. Digital Xtra Fund is a great example of different organisations working together to realise these ambitions. I look forward to seeing the initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund develop and I’m certain that they will help inspire the next generation of digital experts.”

Skyscanner is Digital Xtra Fund’s largest private sector contributor for this year’s grant awards. Michael Hall, Senior Engineering Manager at Skyscanner said: “A key goal for Skyscanner’s charity team is to support technology education initiatives for young people and those under-represented in technology. We’ve been so impressed with the impact of the Fund’s work in Scotland and are delighted to have helped increase the total amount of funding awarded this year from £75,000 to £100,000.”

Pupils from Anderston PS show off their micro:bit carsDigital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include J.P. Morgan, Skills Development Scotland, Skyscanner, and the Scottish Government, as well as Accenture, Baillie Gifford, BT Scotland, CityFibre, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Microsoft, ScotlandIS, Sky UK, and Zonal.

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01 Nov 2018

Digital Xtra Fund is seeking to appoint a new Trustee

Digital Xtra Fund is seeking an enthusiastic and committed Trustee who will help guide the charity, shape our strategic direction, and support our fundraising work. We are particularly interested in individuals with an interest in helping young people, an understanding of the digital technologies sector, and, if possible, communications and marketing experience.

Digital Xtra Fund seeking TrusteeDigital Xtra Fund is Scotland’s first and only charity dedicated to supporting a range of extracurricular digital skills initiatives for young people aged 16 and under. We believe every young person in Scotland should have access to innovative and digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live and understand the range of opportunities these skills provide. As the world increasingly becomes reliant on digital technologies, introduction to skills such as coding, computational thinking, digital making, and data analysis from an early age is key to helping young people prepare for their future.

To date, the Fund has distributed £450,000 to organisations delivering extracurricular digital skills initiatives with a further £75,000 available for 2019. This funding has enabled 33 projects thus far, achieving an active engagement of nearly 20,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

Now entering its third year, Digital Xtra Fund is continuing to build links with a diverse range of industry partners to increase the support given to extracurricular digital skills initiatives across Scotland. The Fund also brings together these Partners with supported initiatives to provide context to the skills being taught and promote a range of pathways and exciting careers in the tech sector.

Digital Xtra Fund aims to:

  • Inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not just consume it
  • Enable fun and engaging extracurricular digital skills activities across Scotland
  • Engage our partners with supported activities to help engage young people

You will join six other Trustees on our Board including representatives from the public, private, and third sectors with an interest in young people and digital technologies.

How to apply

Sounds interesting? Please download the Trustee Information Pack and submit your CV and Covering Letter to info@digitalxtrafund.scot by noon on 3rd December.

We would also be happy to arrange a quick chat with an existing trustee if required.

Please note that this is a voluntary position.

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28 Sep 2018

Microsoft and Digital Xtra Fund to work together supporting digital skills for young people in Scotland

Microsoft’s support will be included as part of the recently announced funding round to help engage and inspire more young people through extracurricular digital technologies activities.

When Microsoft was created in 1975, computer programming was a skill known to a select few. However, as the world increasingly becomes digital, more and more roles in all industries will require advanced digital skills such as computational thinking, coding, or data analysis. Even people who choose not to become actual developers or data scientists will need to understand concepts such as machine learning and internet of things, and how they can affect the rest of the organisation.

Stirling High School 1As such, Microsoft recently launched a programme to teach advanced digital skills to people across the UK and help ensure the country remains a global leader in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other next-generation technologies. This includes Microsoft’s commitment to recruit an extra 30,000 digital apprentices for its network of 25,000 partners in the UK, including 6,000 new digital apprentices in Scotland. This is in addition to the 11,000 apprentices already recruited and smashes the target of 4,000 set in 2012. Microsoft has also made it a priority to ensure more women and minority groups are included and supported in these schemes.

Microsoft realises the importance of engaging and inspiring young people with digital technologies from an early age, to sufficiently increase the future talent pool and give as many children as possible the skills they will need to succeed. The company is actively supporting early education through a variety of initiatives including recently selecting Bertha Park High School in Perth as one of one of 17 schools for the first cohort of Microsoft Flagship Schools – the only one based in the UK. Bertha Park High School will have the opportunity to use ground-breaking digital technology to help pupils learn and develop. Teachers will also be encouraged to collaborate with peers in other countries, including the US, Argentina, Germany, Australia and China, to share best practice.

Stirling High SchoolMicrosoft also understands that supporting extracurricular activities is another key route to engaging and inspiring young people. Introducing young people to digital technologies through activities outwith school enables participants to understand skills such as computational thinking, coding, and data science before they are required to choose their courses in S2 (around age 12 or 13), something which can be intimidating for students unsure what is computer science. In addition, some computing courses have been reduced or even dropped in Scotland with over half the Local Authorities lacking enough teachers to sufficiently teach computing science in secondary schools, making extracurricular activities the best option for many of these young people to learn about digital technologies.*

Digital Xtra Fund is a charity created to support and grow extracurricular digital technology initiatives across Scotland which give young people opportunity to learn advanced digital skills regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. Backed by businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world, the Fund provides grants for extracurricular activities that teach young people to understand and create with technology, not simply consume it, and also connects its Partners with supported initiatives to help connect young people with industry professionals.

Most recently, Digital Xtra Fund announced a funding round with £75,000 available. Groups can apply for up to £5,000 for initiatives running in 2019 and applications close 1 November. Since its inception in 2016, the Fund has supported 33 initiatives helping introduce nearly 20,000 young people to the amazing career and life opportunities digital technology can provide.

Stirling High School 3Steven Grier, Country Manager for Scotland at Microsoft, said: “As businesses in Scotland and beyond embrace the huge opportunities driven by AI and Machine Learning, its hugely important that we, as a country, continue to build a skills pipeline of talented, innovative, creative young people to help us stay at the forefront of this technology driven revolution. Digital Xtra Fund helps inspire young people to get involved with digital technology, to imagine the possibilities and ultimately to pursue a career in digital, helping us close our skills gaps and empowering Scotland to achieve more!”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund, said: “2018 has been a very exciting year for Digital Xtra Fund as we have welcomed a number of new Partners ranging from companies created and based here in Scotland to multinationals like Microsoft. The support we’ve received from such a variety of organisations speaks to the importance of engaging young people in digital technologies in as many ways possible and showing them the range of careers these skills can provide. For many young people, choosing computer science as a course can be intimidating if they don’t know what it involves or the exciting opportunities these skills can provide. Extracurricular activity is the perfect way to engage more young people and get them exciting about tech.”

*Farrell, Kate. “Computing Science Teachers in Scotland” Computing at School Scotland, BCS, 2016, www.cas.scot/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ComputingTeachersinScotland-CASSReport2016.pdf

*McIvor, Jamie. “Warning over STEM teacher recruitment” BBC Scotland, 30 August 2017, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41083438

 

About Microsoft:

Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/

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