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.
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 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 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.”
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.