16 Nov 2017

Digital Xtra Fund continues to inspire Scotland’s future digital makers

Formula 1, 3D printed drones, lighthouses, and coding for social good are just some of the latest activities to receive support from Digital Xtra Fund, a charity dedicated to inspiring Scotland’s future digital workforce through high-quality extracurricular digital activities.

From Orkney to Dumfries & Galloway, a sum of £50,000 has been shared between 11 sustainable initiatives to introduce over 3,000 young people to digital technologies, and show them the range of career opportunities these skills will provide. Five awardees are new initiatives which demonstrated a creative and fun way to engage young people, with the remaining six projects set to build on activities previously supported by Digital Xtra Fund.

The aim of Digital Xtra Fund is for every young person in Scotland to have access to a digitally creative activity regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. The Fund is particularly keen to engage audiences underrepresented in the digital technologies industry, especially girls and young women, and looked to support initiatives that showed a healthy gender split and were delivered in areas often excluded from extracurricular digital activities through lack of local resources or facilities.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “The digital skills gap is well documented, and we believe the best way to tackle this gap is to engage young people through extracurricular activities, where they can be themselves in an informal and creative setting. Initiatives supported by the Fund will inspire them to be more than just digital consumers; they can be digital makers too.

“It’s been incredibly inspiring to see the quality and diversity of activities that organisations across the country have come up with. They are fun, engaging, and with the help of Digital Xtra Fund, they are more widely available than ever before. This is very encouraging for the future of digital technologies in Scotland.”

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is great to see the Digital Xtra Fund supporting deserving extracurricular digital skills projects across Scotland, benefiting over 3000 young people. The Scottish Government recently launched its STEM strategy, which aims to inspire and enthuse everyone to study STEM and build STEM skills. Charities such as the Digital Xtra Fund, who are enabling inspiring digital and STEM projects to flourish and encourage more young people into the sector, are making a significant contribution to this important agenda.

Damien Yeates, Chief Executive of Skills Development Scotland said: “We are delighted to the see Digital Xtra Fund going from strength to strength and supporting projects which are addressing the gender imbalance and encouraging more girls into tech. The digital technology sector in Scotland is booming and the Fund is now well established to work with Scottish employers to collectively support extracurricular digital activities for young people. This is a great way to encourage the next generation of digital makers into the tech sector.”

Now an independent charity, Digital Xtra Fund is seeking further support to give every young person in Scotland opportunity to get involved in extracurricular digital activities. Actively working with Scotland’s industries, Digital Xtra Fund is currently raising funds for its 2018 grant awards. Companies interested in supporting young people to gain the digital skills for the future should contact the Fund.

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02 Nov 2017

Edge Testing completes 500 mile charity walk for 10th anniversary

Edge Testing Solutions, one of the UK’s fastest growing and largest independent software testing companies, has completed a £5,000 fundraising initiative in support of 10 chosen charities, including Digital Xtra Fund.

10 volunteers across Edge’s offices walked 500 miles from the company’s Glasgow office, via its new Digital Test Hub in Birmingham, to its London premises on a treadmill.  Edge donated £10 for every 10 miles walked with the proceeds split between the 10 charities. Charity representatives were invited to the company’s 10th anniversary celebrations to receive their cheques from CEO Brian Ferrie.

Digital Xtra Fund was hugely honoured to be one of the 10 chosen alongside other nominated charities: St Andrew’s Hospice (where Susan Chadwick, joint founder of Edge, spent her final days); Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity; Brick by Brick; Little Stars; Acorns Children’s Hospice Trust, Birmingham; British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; NSPCC; and MacMillan.

Fiona Atherton, Head of Marketing at Edge, said: “We got everyone at Edge involved by asking them to nominate a charity which was close to their hearts; the stories inspired us all and gave us the motivation we needed to complete the 500-mile journey.”

The walkers from Edge were CEO and Founder Brian Ferrie, Nadia McKay, Sharon Hamilton, Fiona Atherton, Liam Rankine, Gary Robertson, Michael Burt, Jennifer McManus, Claire Ferguson and Kimberley Crielly. In addition to the 500 mile walk, Edge employees have also been participating in other fundraising activities in support of the 10 charities, including a raffle at their 10th anniversary event, which the charities were invited to attend.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Thank you very much to everyone at Edge Testing for their contribution, especially the 10 volunteers who participated in the 500 mile walk from Glasgow to London. We were delighted when Fiona told us we were going to be included in this terrific initiative, especially alongside fantastic and long-standing charities like MacMillan and British Heart Foundation.

Edge Testing’s donation is very much appreciated  and will help ensure that Digital Xtra Fund, along with the activity providers we support, continues to support young people across Scotland in learning the technology skills needed to succeed regardless of gender, background, or location. And who knows, some of these young people may work for Edge Testing in a few years!”

Brian Ferrie, CEO and Founder of Edge, concluded: “We wanted to mark our 10th anniversary as a growing testing company by adding another dimension to our fundraising efforts, while also celebrating our expansion into England; that’s why walking 500 miles seemed so appropriate.”

Edge is a leading expert in providing world-class software testing solutions. The award winning company is typically engaged when organisations are implementing a new system or making significant changes to an existing system, to ensure systems are fast, secure, available and work as expected in an increasingly complex and distributed digital age.

The company is listed on the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100, and has quickly built up an excellent reputation with an enviable client list across financial services, telecommunications and media, utilities, retail and the public sector.

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10 Aug 2017

2017 Scotland Women in Technology Awards

Digital Xtra Fund is excited to announce that nominations are now open for the inaugural Women in Technology Awards hosted by Scotland Women in Technology! The awards are for any individual or group operating in the technology sector or in technology education in Scotland. The awards recognise those who possess the drive, commitment, and passion to further the technology agenda.

This event will showcase the vast amount of talent working in the Scottish technology sector and also uncover the inspirational people in education who are working hard to develop a pipeline of talented females to meet industry demands of the future. There is an exciting range of 10 award categories and nominations are open to everyone (participants are also actively encouraged to self-nominate). Digital Xtra Fund is particularly interested in the ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Employer of the Year’ categories.

Becoming a finalist for the awards will showcase fantastic female role models in the sector, highlight the great work already happening across Scotland to promote gender diversity in the technology sector, and will work towards encouraging more girls and young women to consider a career in tech.

If you know of someone deserving of a nomination, please click here to make a submission! Nominations close 1 September (same day at the Digital Xtra Fund Round III Grant Award, so get typing!). All categories will be judged initially by the Scotland Women in Technology Board with the final list of nominees being evaluated by an independent judging panel of industry experts not associated with SWiT or its associated companies.

Scotland Women in Technology is a voluntary organisation run by a Board of female technology professionals with a shared passion for diversity. Founded in 2008, the group run frequent professional talks and networking sessions  aimed at providing a platform to attract, inspire, retain, and connect the female technology talent pipeline in Scotland.

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26 Jul 2017

Celebrating SLIC’s Code Club Success

In 2016, the Digital Xtra Fund supported 22 projects including the Scottish Library & Information Council’s proposal to upskill library staff to enable them to deliver free coding clubs in public libraries across Scotland. Working in partnership with Code Club Scotland, this project has been a huge success with strong attendance and over a third of the participants being girls. Digital Xtra Fund are very proud to have played a part in helping this happen (although most of the credit must go to the teams at SLIC and Code Club Scotland). Gillian Daly, Head of Policy & Projects at SLIC, recently wrote about their success at introducing code clubs in libraries throughout Scotland and what the digital future holds.

If your organisation is looking to engage young people aged 16 years or under in coding, digital making, or computing science, please download the application for the current funding round to apply for support up to £5,000.

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17 Jun 2017

Digital Xtra Fund Trustee Polly Purvis honoured with OBE

Polly Purvis, founding Trustee of the Digital Xtra Fund has been honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2017.

Polly who is CEO of technology trade body ScotlandIS and chair of digital skills academy CodeClan was recognised for her services to the Digital Economy in Scotland. In an interview with The Scotsman, Polly stated that she was both ‘delighted and surprised to receive the award.’

Everyone associated with the Digital Xtra Fund would like to extend their congratulations to Polly.

Picture: Lisa Ferguson/TSPL

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14 Jun 2017

Digital Xtra Announces New Fund of £50K to support digital skills projects

Projects that teach digital technologies skills to young people could be in line for a financial boost as the Digital Xtra Fund announces its first new fund since becoming a charity.

The new fund of £50,000 will be available for projects that inspire young people by taking digital skills out of the classroom and teaching concepts like computational thinking, coding, digital making, or data science in a fun environment. Applications open on 16 June and each project can apply for up to £5000.

The Digital Xtra Fund was created in 2016 to fund a variety of projects, all with an aim to foster a new generation of digital makers who will, in future, bridge the skills gap in Scotland’s digital economy.

It is seeking applications for innovative, adaptable, and sustainable projects, particularly those that engage with groups such as girls and young women, who are underrepresented in the digital sector. Its ultimate aim is to increase the number of young people from all backgrounds entering highly skilled digital careers.

The Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy sets out plans to increase the number of people in digital technology roles to 150,000 by 2021. Increasing digital participation and preparing young people for the future by improving digital skills levels is an integral component of this strategy. Career opportunities are significant, with an estimated 12,800 job opportunities available in Scotland annually.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for the Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Our aim is to drive innovation and engagement through a large network of digital skills providers across Scotland, including teachers running clubs outside school hours, as well as helping create links between industry and skills providers.

“Most importantly, we want to improve digital skills among young people by supporting high-quality extracurricular activities; thereby preparing them better for a digital future and inspiring them to consider a career in digital tech.

“Projects funded by the Digital Xtra Fund have done fantastic work that has reached thousands of young people across the country already. This is our first new fund since we received official charitable status so we’d like to thank everyone who has supported us to get here.”

The Digital Xtra Fund was originally established with funding from the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership before being spun out as an independent charity in March 2017.

£400,000 was already awarded to 22 projects in 2016, reaching an impressive 15,000 young people across the country. Past projects include the Little Lighthouse project, which used the context of lighthouses to introduce ‘little engineers’ to STEM concepts, as well as ComputerXplorers who delivered Micro:bit Workshops to S1 pupils in a selection of high schools in East Lothian as well as providing CPD (Continuing Professional Development) sessions for teachers.

Supporters in the private and public sector include BT Scotland, Be Positive, Edge Testing, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, ScotlandIS, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government.

The closing date for applications is 1 September and awardees will be chosen by a panel of experts made up of key players in Scotland’s tech industry. Funding will be awarded to the successful projects in mid-October 2017.

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02 May 2017

Directory of Resources added to Digital Xtra Fund web site

The team at Digital Xtra Fund have added a useful directory resource to the web site. The new section contains details of the major organisations delivering digital activities to young people across Scotland.

If you are seeking details on starting a Code Club in your area, finding a mentor to come and talk to a class or wish to run an App competition in your School then this directory is a very good place to start!

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18 Apr 2017

Digital & Tech Role Models & Mentors required for School Age Girls

A call to Women In Scotland’s Tech & Digital Sector – consider becoming role models and mentors to inspire the next generation!

Whether you’re a school leaver on a training course, a recent graduate, or early in your tech career, please volunteer to become role models and mentors for school age girls! By becoming a role model, you will be making an important contribution to the future of the digital technology sector and helping improve the economic prosperity of Scotland.

Girl Geek Scotland and Skills Development Scotland are holding a series of training webinars to get you started, show you how to use the available resources, and help you know what to expect, so you can go into schools confident you are fully prepared.

You will learn how to talk to teenagers about digital technology and gender discrimination and why both are important. You will learn how to create engaging presentations and interactive learning experiences while developing your communication skills and enhancing your professional capabilities and relationships.

The webinar will cover:
● how to engage a teenage audience,
● why digital technology is important and the range of jobs available,
● why we have a gender problem in digital technology,
● why it is important to get more girls into technology,
● how to talk about jobs in digital technology so that they appeal to girls,
● how young people can get into the industry,
● how to use and tailor the provided resources,
● how to construct and deliver interactive learning experiences,
● what practical information and logistics you need before visiting schools,
● how to become a role model or mentor.

All the webinars will cover the same material but places are limited so please select a time that is suitable for you.

The Free Webinars are available 0n:

● Thursday 27th April (19:30)
● Thursday 4th May (12:30)
● Tuesday 9th May (10:00)
● Saturday 13th May (13:00)

You can book webinar tickets via Eventbrite HERE

These webinars will use Google Hangouts to enable the widest possible audience. It’s available online and for both iOS and Android mobile phones. The link to the Google Hangouts will be shared with ticket holders the week before the webinar takes place.

It would also be appreciated if you could complete a short survey prior to the seminar as this will aid Girl Geeks Scotland and Skills Development Scotland to understand what we can do to support and motivate you in your role.

The survey can be found HERE

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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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