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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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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24 Aug 2018

Digital Xtra Fund to award £75K to help boost digital skills in Scotland

A fresh round of funding will soon be available to inspire young people in Scotland to develop digital skills through high quality extra-curricular activities.

WHS Light Bike - AfGOn 30 August, Digital Xtra Fund will launch its next round of funding with a total of £75,000 available. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to extracurricular activity providers that teach skills such as coding, data science, and computational thinking and help inspire Scotland’s next generation of designers, developers, and digital technologists.

Created in 2016, the goal of the 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, helping bridge Scotland’s widening skills gap.

Over the past two years, Digital Xtra Fund has supported 33 initiatives enabling them to engage more than 20,000 young people. The Fund has previously supported Code Clubs in public libraries across Scotland; Apps for Good, which teaches young people to develop apps with social benefit; and VEX Robotics, a global robotics competition.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Our aim is to inspire young people to create technology rather than just consume it, and help them understand the huge range of future career opportunities these skills provide. These careers aren’t just in tech companies either, they are across all sectors including finance, hospitality, healthcare, and agriculture too.

Team Velocity“The Fund has already supported some brilliant initiatives and the results have been fantastic. For example, last year the Fund supported the Scottish F1 in Schools STEM Challenge which taught students to design, build, and race model F1 cars. From that, several teams qualified for the UK Finals in Silverstone with two all-girl teams from West Lothian now heading to the World Finals in Singapore, representing Scotland and Britain. This goes to show there is much untapped potential across Scotland which, with a little bit of extra support and expertise, is something we can easily unlock.”

Michael Hall, Senior Engineering Manager at Skyscanner who are a Key Partner of the Fund said, “Digital Xtra Fund is making a real impact and we are excited to be able to support digital skills initiatives from across Scotland. Inspiring the next generation to embrace digital learning and technology is vital for the future of Scotland’s tech sector, as well as our wider economy.”

WCS Coding Club - Gleniffer High, PaisleyDigital 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 Skills Development Scotland, Skyscanner, and Scottish Government, as well as Accenture, Baillie Gifford, BT Scotland, CityFibre, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK, and Zonal.

The closing date for applications is 1 November and awardees will be chosen by a panel made up Digital Xtra Fund Partners and EdTech experts. Funding will be awarded to successful initiatives from mid-December 2018.

For more information about the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards, visit digitalxtrafund.scot/apply.

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