16 Oct 2019

J.P. Morgan collaborates with Digital Xtra Fund to help combat technology skills crisis

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J.P. Morgan has joined forces with Digital Xtra Fund to help tackle the technology skills gap in Scotland.  The firm has signed up as a Gigabyte Partner with the charity which funds extracurricular digital activities such as coding and robotics clubs for young people across Scotland.

Research commissioned by Skills Development Scotland in 2019 estimated there are over 13,000 tech job opportunities available in Scotland every year – an increase of 16% on previous forecasts. However, with only around 6,600 people entering the Scottish job market each year with relevant tech skills, there is simply not enough talent to fulfil this many positions. This difference in supply and demand means some businesses and organisations face inhibited growth while others may need to leave Scotland in search of more talent.

Anderston Primary School pupils take part in 'Tech Heroes' supported by Digital Xtra Fund“There is currently a huge IT skills gap in Scotland, and the only long-term solution is to encourage more youngsters to become interested in computer science and STEM subjects in school so they will consider a career in technology when they leave,” explains Robbie Robinson, global co-lead of Tech for Social Good Youth Programmes at J.P. Morgan.

“This is the key reason why J.P. Morgan has become a Gigabyte partner with Digital Xtra Fund. All businesses need to invest in tomorrow’s workforce now otherwise the skills gap is going to persist.  Young people need to be inspired by technology and made more aware of the fantastic career opportunities that are available.

He adds: “If our economy is to thrive, we need people with the right skills and that starts from a young age.  Digital Xtra Fund has done a great job of reaching out to girls and other under-represented groups in tech and we want to see this continue.  .”

J.P. Morgan runs Tech for Social Good, which fosters innovation and provides opportunities for J.P. Morgan employees to use their technology expertise to give back to the communities in which they live and work.

Anderston Primary School pupils take part in 'Tech Heroes' (Digital Xtra Fund)Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, comments: “J.P. Morgan’s support is vital in enabling us to make a real impact on the lives of young people around Scotland. Our partners not only provide financial support but their staff can also volunteer to speak with young people about careers in tech, putting a personal face to the variety of roles these skills can lead to.

“Bringing together industry and young people is a key element to what Digital Xtra Fund is trying to achieve. Negative stereotypes about careers in tech are still very much alive when speaking with young people and their families. Connecting young people and industry professionals, especially those who only recently started their careers, can make a significant impact on young peoples’ perceptions about what is a career in tech as well as the variety of opportunities available in Scotland. It is especially important we have relevant role models and mentors to inspire more women and minorities to pursue roles in tech too.

Brown adds: “J.P. Morgan supports many amazing philanthropic initiatives around the globe, so to have their support for our work here in Scotland is hugely appreciated and also speaks to the importance of what we are trying to achieve. These skills are vital for both young people and to the future Scottish economy. Only by working together can we make a positive difference.

Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.

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07 Oct 2019

‘Resilient Robotics’ at Port Ellen Primary School is teaching the next generation how to code

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A robotics club from Port Ellen Primary School on Islay has been hailed by Digital Xtra Fund as a great example of what schools can do to equip the next generation with the vital tech and interpersonal skills they will need in the future.

Resilient Robotics was launched at Port Ellen Primary School in January by Class Teacher Jo Clark. A robotics club for children aged between 8 – 12, it teaches children how to code, create apps and build robots. Among other resources, the club uses Marty the Robot built by Scottish firm Robotical; an educational robot designed for kids.

Jo Clark, who submitted the school’s Digital Xtra Fund grant application, explains the idea behind Resilient Robotics was to create a robotics club where the children not only learn new technical skills, but also develop resilience, improve self-confidence and, most importantly, have fun.

Resilient Robotics at Port Ellen PSShe explains: “Developing children’s resilience and self-confidence is a key aim. Learning programming and building robots requires skills like investigating, debugging and perseverance. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to programming; children need to know failure is part of the design process. Overcoming difficulties while creating robots develops resilience and, once they are successful, is also very rewarding.

“I think lots of children don’t understand the outcomes of being able to code, but once they see what they can achieve, they are hooked. They follow instructions, generate algorithms, and use their skills creatively, developing progressively more complex ways of working as they go on. From simple exploring with Spheros using apps, to building a responsive robot in Marty using Scratch, to more diverse and creative programming using the micro:bit Inventor’s Kit – the children are inspired and motivated.

“We are very pleased with the success of the programme and are especially delighted it is being adopted in neighbouring Primary schools and now at Islay High School. You can see how much the children are getting from it, and how much they are going to benefit from developing these skills at an early age.”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, added: “It is essential we equip children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a technology-driven world, no matter what career or industry they may become interested in.

Resilient Robotics at Port Ellen PS“What is especially fantastic about Resilient Robotics is the success it has achieved in terms of sustainability. The original grant from Digital Xtra Fund supported the pilot programme at Port Ellen Primary School, however, it was quickly realised there was an excellent opportunity to expand this initiative across the island, including at the High School, as well as on Mull and Jura. The fact that some of the resources are also being translated into Gaelic will only add to the project’s legacy. It’s a fantastic programme which will make a real difference in the lives of young people from the islands.

Brown adds: “Resilient Robotics is a shining example of the kind of initiative Digital Xtra Fund is looking to support. As a grant awarding charity, it is always the goal to see supported initiatives take root and grow and we hope other organisations and schools can take inspiration from its success.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.

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02 Sep 2019

£75K grants round announced to combat digital skills gap

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Digital Xtra Fund has launched the latest £75k funding round in support of extracurricular activities that boost interest in computing and technology among young people across Scotland.

This comes on the heels of alarming figures from SQA showing a massive drop in Computing Science Higher entries in Scotland in 2019. The Fund is urging educators and industry to come together to combat the digital skills gap which is threatening to undermine the Scottish tech sector.

Recent SQA figures showed a 21% drop in Computing Science Higher entries in Scotland as well as a 2% drop in Nat 5 entries. This alarming decline is by far the largest drop across any subject and continues a worrying trend that has been ongoing for some time.

These figures also have a direct effect on Scotland’s job market with around 12,800 digital tech job opportunities annually – a 16% increase on the previous forecasts – but only around 5,000-6,000 people entering the market each year with relevant tech skills.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development manager at the Digital Xtra Fund, explains: “We will be awarding £75,000 to tech-related activities for young people and it could not come at a more important time. We cannot ignore the latest figures regarding participation in Computing Science or what this means for the future of tech in Scotland.

“We are at a crossroads; we need to decide now if Scotland will be a leader or a follower in this digital world – and it all starts with young people. Scotland is prime placed to be a digital leader with an abundance of universities and colleges and a burgeoning tech scene, but inspiring young people to be the digital leaders of tomorrow is essential to maintain this momentum. Without more skilled and creative talent, Scotland will inevitably fall behind. However, a lack of understanding about what are careers in tech, coupled with negative stereotypes and strong gender imbalances, are creating serious challenges to engaging and inspiring more young people to take up computing.

“Our grants programme is a fantastic way for organisations or schools to be able to explore new ideas, build on previous successes and facilitate increased collaboration. We need to bring together educators, industry and organisations who focus on teaching young people digital skills to attract and excite more children in technology.

Brown adds: “Our goal is for all young people to have access to digital activities which teach valuable skills as well as provide ‘real-world’ context so participants understand why these skills are so important and the amazing opportunities they can provide.”

Sam Pattman, Sponsorship Manager at Baillie Gifford who support the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards, says: “Digital skills are a serious challenge across Scotland, which is illustrated by the number of tech jobs that companies struggle to fill due to the skills shortage. The solution lies in educating our young people and collectively we need to work together to inspire more children to become interested in computing science and technology. This is why initiatives like the Digital Xtra Fund are so important – it’s about working together and supporting exciting digital initiatives to give more children the opportunity to understand what a future in tech may be. We are delighted to be increasing our support for the Fund.”

Digital Xtra Fund has today opened applications (02 September 2019) for initiatives supported in 2020. A total of £75,000 will be awarded to digital skills initiatives across Scotland with grants available up to £5,000. Grant applications can be downloaded on the Fund’s website and applications will close 31st October 2019. To date, the Fund has helped engage nearly 30,000 young people across Scotland by awarding a total of £550,000. Last year’s funding supported 22 initiatives, covering topics from robotics and coding, to app development and the Internet of Things (IoT). To access further information please visit https://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/apply.

Digital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common goal to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners for 2019/20 include Baillie Gifford, Skills Development Scotland and Skyscanner as well as Accenture, BT Scotland, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK and The Scottish Government.

Created in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish charity which supports high-quality, extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland that inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not simply use it. The aim is to encourage young people to consider careers in computing to fill Scotland’s digital skills gap. To date, the fund has distributed £550,000 in support of 55 projects, achieving an active engagement of nearly 30,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

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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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