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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