30 Jun 2022

Scottish pupils’ interest in tech sector reaches new heights

The following post by Skills Development Scotland and originally posted in The Herald.


An innovative series of live lessons are inspiring Scots pupils to choose careers fit for the future

NEW project Tech Industry in the Classroom sees employers from across the digital sector using their experience to offer pupils insight into their day-to-day work.

Participants get to co-create and design lesson plans with teachers, and talk directly to school pupils about their role, their company and their sector.

The initiative is led by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), who are working with a range of partners to give young people a better understanding of the range of tech careers which are now available.

Phil Ford, Head of Digital Technologies and Financial Services at SDS, said: “People actually working in technology have unique real-world experiences which resonate really well with the pupils, and they can give them unrivalled insight, in the most passionate way, into what it’s really like to work in the exciting world of the digital economy.

“By getting involved, technologists can help pupils and teachers better understand the digital world, and by talking about their team members and colleagues, they can help introduce them to the huge variety of roles available in digital tech. From cyber security to software development, and gaming to AI and beyond, the variety of career options open to those with digital skills is amazing, and many of those jobs pay well above the average salary.”

Technology firm BJSS were one of the first companies to get involved in Tech Industry in the Classroom. Laura Casci, head of delivery for Scotland said: “We got involved as it aligns with our belief in helping young people from all backgrounds to develop the digital skills they need to thrive in the future. It’s also become increasingly important for organisations to create a rich digital talent pool.”

Virgin Money also took part to help promote tech careers in financial services. Scott Fraser, a cyber security specialist with the bank, said: “This programme is a fantastic initiative.

“There is a wide range of career paths within financial services, so this is a great opportunity to provide schoolchildren with insight into the important role cyber security plays in delivering cutting-edge digital experiences for customers.

“It also gives the children some awareness of data protection and privacy which is a really important life skill as well.”

SDS has been a long-time provider of digital skills awareness and education in schools. It’s award-winning Discover Cyber Live programme reached a quarter of a million users, and has now been expanded to include other digital skills such as data management, app development and software engineering.

SDS also offers My World of Work Live – a set of fun, interactive activities that help young people understand possible future careers. Aimed at pupils in P5 to S6 across Scotland, activities are designed and delivered by experts with a passion for education and learning.

Using the latest technology, the activities help young people identify their own skills and learn about the world of work, the key sectors and what jobs Scotland will need.

Recently, pupils at Uddingston Grammar School in South Lanarkshire were the first to try out a new activity entitled Drones in Construction.

Designed in partnership with Balfour Beatty, pupils learn how to control and safely fly a drone, discover how they are used in the construction sector, and take part in skills challenges.

The aim of the activity is to inspire young people and help them understand the future careers they could explore in sectors which offer strong career prospects, including construction, ICT and digital, and engineering.

John Cairns, Social Impact Manager at Balfour Beatty, said: “We are delighted to support SDS’s work to enhance career education for pupils. We’ve invested heavily in work-based learning opportunities at Balfour Beatty, with a breadth of apprenticeship opportunities, so we know first-hand how important it is to provide inspiration and encourage youngsters to consider a career in construction.”

James Russell, SDS’s Director of Careers Information, Advice and Guidance Operations, said: “We know experiencing the world of work at an early stage leads to better outcomes for young people. These career experiences not only allow for direct connections to the world of work, but exciting partnerships with industry experts such as Balfour Beatty help address and overcome outdated ideas of careers in key sectors across Scotland.”

Visit digitalworld.net/industry/get-involved to sign up for Tech Industry in the Classroom

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28 Jun 2022

How a Kirriemuir school’s STEM club for girls is breaking down gender stereotype

The following post was written by and originally posted in The Courier.


Traditionally girls have been less likely than boys to go into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But that’s a trend that one Kirriemuir school is helping to reverse by challenging the stereotype that girls don’t engage well with STEM subjects.

Southmuir Primary School has a STEM club exclusively for girls, which provides fun activities such as coding and robotics.

Teacher Karen-Ruth Phillips started the weekly club for P4 to P7s to allow girls to enjoy coding and STEM subjects in a creative way.

With grant-funding the school bought new robots and equipment and there has been great interest.

Karen-Ruth said: “Global current research points out that if we want to increase the level of female participation in computer science at secondary school level and beyond, we need to address it within the primary school setting.

“There have been many studies which suggest that girls may be more motivated by projects where the aims were more people-focused and targeted towards their interests.

“So we chose activities with a creative element, whilst still covering the basic skills and regularly monitored engagement.

“We did this by asking the girls to indicate their enjoyment level after each block of activities we completed over the year.”

 

Strictly Come Dashing

Activities girls liked most included making a virtual pet and a dance party where they coded characters to complete routines.

They even held a Strictly Come Dashing competition, where they coded dances for Dash and Dot robots and guests voted for their favourites.

Karen-Ruth said: “These creative approaches to the use of the robots encouraged the girls to persist in progressing through the Dash and Dot structured puzzle challenges.”

Girls earned digital badges and certificates and were given insights into potential future careers from women like games creator Laura Molnar, of 4J Studios, and cyber security consultant Kayleigh Gall, of CGI Glasgow.

 

What do the girls say?

Carly, 9, said: “I liked coding the Dash robots because they made me laugh. I loved doing the dance competition.”

Stacey, 9, said: “Some parts of the Code.org course were hard but I was determined to finish it. I enjoyed building and coding the VEX GO robots the most.”

Eve, 10, said: “Making the VEX GO robots, especially the Hexbug animals, was the best bit. I liked the way they moved.”

Erin, 8, said: “I enjoyed designing a coin flipping robot with our micro:bits. I would like to become a robotics engineer.”

Mya, 11, said: “The talks have made me consider a career as a games designer.”

 

The start of a STEM career?

Karen-Ruth said: “It has really ignited interest in the girls and opened their eyes to a whole new way of working.

“A survey that I conducted found that more than two-thirds of the girls would now consider a career in STEM, with 13% saying they definitely would do so.

“The girls themselves feel that the project has helped them develop their team work and resilience and has given them more confidence.

“What’s especially pleasing is to see them learn and get excited about coding, their enthusiasm has been a joy to watch.”

The club launch received a £5,000 grant from the Digital Xtra Fund, supported by IT and business consulting service CGI.

Kraig Brown, the charity’s partnerships and development manager, said: “Our goal is for young people to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live, and this has been encapsulated perfectly by Southmuir.”

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02 Jun 2022

Aberdeenshire education charity receives Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The following post was written by Ellie Milne and originally posted in The Press and Journal.


An Aberdeenshire education charity has received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Cromar Future Group, based near Tarland, who received a grant award from Digital Xtra Fund in 2019, aims to bring science and technology activities to the local community.

Focusing on smaller rural schools with limited resources, the charity supports primary school teachers with their science curriculum and believes children learn best when they get “hands on”.

Volunteers design sessions to ensure this can happen by refurbishing and loaning equipment to schools.

The Everything Electronic Youth Club helps youngsters develop digital skills, including coding electronics, film-making and digital art and sound.

Prize-winning youngsters

The charity has adult tutors and youth club members, including the “outstanding” Jamie Holroyde, who was one of the first youngsters to join.

He has been asked to accept the Queen’s Award at the ceremony to recognise his contribution to the club.

Lesley Ellis, trustee and club organiser, said: “Jamie came to us having taught himself to write python code in order to develop a simulation of planetary orbits.

“With our help, he has continued to stretch himself, obtaining an international CoderDojo award and a Gold Crest Science Award. He is now our most senior regular python coach.

“Accompanying him, will be tutors Millie and Harvey Pole, both also winners of the international CoderDojo award and winners of three film awards, and Thorfinn Sigurhansson who is our digital sound coach. His passion was demonstrated most ably when partnered with another member Jacob to win two film awards.”

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23 May 2022

National roll-out of micro:bits to Scotland’s primary schools

The following article originally appeared on Micro:bit Educational Foundation website on 23rd May 2022.


Scotland’s Education Secretary celebrates world-leading investment in Computing Science at primary age with school visit. Methilhill Primary School in Fife, Scotland, welcomed Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, for a visit to meet children using the new micro:bit coding devices. The tiny computers are being given to all primary, secondary and additional support needs schools in Scotland as part of a landmark investment to improve the quality of, and participation in, computing science and digital literacy in Scottish schools.

Delivered by education non-profit, The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, the micro:bits are pocket-size entry-level coding devices that offer children an enjoyable entry into coding and computing science. There are over six million devices already in use across the globe, including most UK secondary schools. In the coming weeks, all primary schools across Scotland will receive twenty devices alongside a host of new teaching resources tailored for primary school level in a world-leading investment from the Scottish Government to develop digital skills in even younger children.

During her visit, Somerville saw the devices come to life in the hands of children aged between 6-8 in an exciting, interactive lesson around health and wellbeing. micro:bit ambassadors shared an insight into the wide range of capabilities the nifty devices offer, while teachers at the school explained first-hand how the new investment is helping integrate digital skills and computational thinking into lessons across the entire curriculum as part of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review programme.

Investing in future skills

Digital skills and computational thinking can greatly enhance a child’s creativity and life chances. However, recent research from The Micro:bit Educational Foundation found that 61% of primary school teachers in the UK responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, while three in five cite lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Scottish Government: “It has been inspiring to see first-hand how these devices can help to get children thinking creatively and to be enthused about technology. It’s an exciting prospect to imagine these scenes being replicated in schools all over Scotland in the coming weeks and months, and we’re proud to be leading the world in creating quality engagement in computing sciences among our young learners.”

Aimée Fagan, Head of Partnerships at Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said: “Digital literacy and computational thinking are increasingly important core skills, and we know the earlier you learn them, the better. Today has been a brilliant showcase of the possibilities micro:bits offer in the hands of younger children and how accessible they can make the first steps into computing.”

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Alix Rolland, Deputy Head Teacher at Methilhill Primary School, added: “We’re committed to embedding computing science and digital literacy into our classrooms, right across the curriculum. It’s been a joy to see the first of many micro:bit sessions at Methilhill Primary School today, and the support from Micro:bit has given our teachers the tools and confidence they need to get our children inspired by technology.”

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the UK in 2016, with the aim of inspiring every child to create their best digital future.

We do this by:

·      developing hardware and software that inspires young people to get excited about technology and the opportunities it presents for them

·      creating free, user-friendly educational resources to support teachers in delivering engaging and creative lessons

·      working with like-minded partners to deliver high-impact educational programmes across the globe.

The micro:bit launched in the UK in 2016 by giving free devices to every S1 / Year 7 student as part of BBC Make it Digital, an unprecedented and highly ambitious project. It is now not only being used in most secondary schools to teach 11 – 14-year olds but is also popular with primary school teachers for 5 – 11-year olds.

The Foundation has donated micro:bits to key institutions, including the National Centre for Computing Education’s schools lending scheme in England, Digital Xtra Fund in Scotland, Ulster Universities and Libraries NI in Northern Ireland.  Through these schemes, approximately 30,000 devices were donated directly to schools, libraries and NGOs.

The Foundation offered up to 5,000 micro:bits to families in the UK wanting to continue learning at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following a single tweet, the Foundation received 8,500 requests in 13 hours.

Editorial enquiries

You can contact the Micro:bit Educational Foundation at [email protected]

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04 May 2022

How CGI’s commitment to diversity is providing opportunities for the next generation of Scots to forge careers in tech

The following was written by CGI, and originally posted in Business Scotland.


The technology sector is flourishing. Opportunities that come with skilled jobs are continuing to grow apace. But for some, that world of opportunity can still feel light years away.

That is why companies like CGI have committed themselves to not only invest in a skilled workforce, but also make sure that workforce is diverse, with opportunities to show their talent in an equal and inclusive workplace.

In Scotland today, the hunt is on to find the next generation of coders, cyber security experts and systems engineers. Since CGI established its presence north of the border, it has built up its own diverse workforce thanks to its commitment to investing in a skilled workforce.

It does so through its recruitment of apprentices. In 2012, the global IT business consulting services company introduced its Graduate Apprenticeships Programme to Scotland. The programme sees CGI work in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh Napier University to attract young people with a passion for technology.

Students study towards a four-year BSc Honours degree – in Software Development at Glasgow Caledonian or IT Management for Business at Napier – while also spending time to develop their career on real-life projects at the company, which has offices in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Those chosen are given a permanent contract from Day One, with a paid starting salary of £19,000. Maria Whittingham, Early Careers Recruitment Specialist at CGI, says such a starting salary provides a huge opportunity for people who might otherwise not consider a career in STEM due to the cost of a more traditional university education.

She said: “CGI is all about providing opportunities for students from every type of background, and this is a brilliant opportunity for people to progress their careers as well as their education.

“The way these opportunities are structured is meant to be totally inclusive: it takes into account those who may have different learning styles, and who in fact benefit far more from complementing their learning with real-life experience in a work setting.

“So at CGI, we are both growing our own talent and widening our outlook, perspectives and viewpoints because our workforce has become much more diverse.”

CGI currently has eight graduate apprentices in Scotland. Glasgow Caledonian’s Software Development for Business course is more technology based while Napier’s is an IT Management for Business degree.

Maria continued: “There are also technical graduate opportunities for people with an interest in IT, software development and software testing. For these roles we accept graduates from all degree disciplines but they do need to show some evidence of skills like programming.

“People with STEM degrees tend to go for technology posts, but we have also had people from other degree backgrounds who have an interest in programming. For them, we provide all the training they need when they join the company.”

Within CGI, the company is determined to break the gender bias in technology. Nearly 4 in 10 members of its senior leadership team in the UK are women, while more than 90% of female staff –– known as members – put forward for promotion were successful this year.

CGI recently joined the Valuable 500 – a global movement putting disability on the business leadership agenda. Its own peer-to-peer network enables members with different disabilities or areas of interest to share ideas and provide mutual support.

CGI’s peer-to-peer network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members emphasises the importance of celebrating various cultures within CGI, while its LGBT+ network supports and represents UK members from all minority sexual orientations and gender identities.

The organisation has been shortlisted for Targetjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards 2022 for best diversity and inclusion strategy, best school leaver programme, best on-boarding experience and best virtual recruitment experience. Each award is voted on and determined exclusively by students, undergraduates and school leavers.

Additionally, CGI backs charities such as Digital Xtra Fund, who enable extracurricular tech activities for young people across Scotland and encourages young girls from all backgrounds to join coding clubs which inspire them to consider careers in digital tech.

One example is Southmuir Primary School, in Kirriemuir, Angus, which used a £5,000 grant provided by the Fund to set up a club exclusively for 32 girls from P4 to P7 – who otherwise might never have encountered such an opportunity – to enjoy engaging ways to learn to code. It was so popular that the school also set up an equivalent club for boys.

Karen-Ruth Phillips, PT Raising Attainment at Southmuir Primary, said: “The club has fostered a really fun way of learning coding and STEM, through receiving digital badges and certificates which they earn for completing different levels of their Code.org course.

“Engagement levels have been really high and the girls especially have not only enjoyed it themselves, they have even got their parents looking into additional coding and STEM activities.”

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, said: “Our goal is for every young person in Scotland to have access to innovative and meaningful activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. This goal has been encapsulated perfectly by the excellent STEM club at Southmuir.”

Lyndsey Teaz, Vice President and Scotland Business Unit Leader (Interim), said: “CGI believes passionately in supporting the communities in which we live and work and it has never been more important to encourage talent and innovation in our sector.

“It is tremendous to see so many young people from all over the country, from different backgrounds. I personally, being a woman in tech, am delighted to see more young girls developing a huge enthusiasm for STEM education.

“We are committed to helping more and more people on their journey and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming months and years.”

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21 Apr 2022

Edinburgh Science Festival: Children trained in coding to block cyber attacks

The following was written by Rachel Keenan, and originally posted in Edinburgh Live.


Edinburgh Science Festival continues with more interactive events for children, including coding sessions to teach kids how to evade hackers.

Children are being taught how to halt hackers in an exclusive coding event running at Edinburgh Science Festival

Information technology company CGI has been holding the coding sessions in a bid to teach youngsters digital skills to block cyberattacks.

The company has offered these interactive drop-in MicroCoders mini-sessions as part of the Datasphere exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.

Supported by Digital Xtra Fund, the event involved giving children five minutes to use a micro:bit programming interface to generate an encryption key to stop hackers from stealing important data.

The fund has awarded grants of up to £5,000 to initiatives across Scotland including MicroCoders to appear at this year’s Edinburgh Science Festival.

The charity aims to help children aged 16 and under develop digital skills by offering grants to extracurricular tech initiatives across Scotland.

Teaching digital skills in an engaging and interactive way is at the forefront of the charity’s mission.

Since its creation in 2016 Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 to 102 initiatives to support teaching children about digital fields.

Westaly Duignan, Senior Development Manager at Edinburgh Science, said: “As an educational charity, Edinburgh Science values the importance of providing immersive and thought-provoking STEM opportunities for young people.

“We were delighted to receive funding from Digital Xtra Fund, which is supported by CGI, to develop and run our drop-in MicroCoders activity at this year’s Edinburgh Science Festival, which allows young people to meet and learn from cyber security and digital skills professionals.

“MicroCoders is a taster version of a larger STEM careers event we run in November, designed to inspire 3,000 young people to consider the fields of science and technology, employment opportunities in STEM industries and the many possibilities that studying these subjects can bring.”

The coding event is running until April 24 at the National Museum of Scotland.

To know more about Edinburgh Science Festival’s MicroCoders activity and other initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund for the year 2021/23, visit: Round VI (2021/2022).

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31 Mar 2022

Digital skills to receive major boost as 57,000 micro:bits are donated to Primary Schools

The following article originally appeared on businesswire.com on 30 March 2022.


The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, in partnership with the Scottish Government and Nominet, will donate 57,000 micro:bits across UK primary schools. Support from the Scottish Government will see every primary school in Scotland receive devices while England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will prioritise primary schools that require additional support. With many secondary schools now using micro:bits in the classroom, the project aims to boost support for younger children and provide  teacher resources.

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, who is the organisation behind the single-board microcontroller, has announced plans to help even more primary school children take their first steps into digital creativity and computing. In addition to the donation of hardware, comprehensive teaching resources and online Continuing Professional Development courses will also be made available.

As digital skills and computing become increasingly important core skills, this major boost to teaching these subjects will see approximately 3,000 UK primary schools receive around 20 devices each. Support from the Scottish Government will see every primary school in Scotland receive 20 devices, with the Foundation and Nominet working with primary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to prioritise 22,000 devices to those that need additional support the most. Delivery of devices will begin from April onwards.

Having launched in 2016, today there are 6 million micro:bits being used by children all over the world, including most UK secondary schools. The Foundation has also seen growing adoption and demand from primary schools to teach 8 – 11-year-olds with the devices. With this major project, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation aims to boost usage in primary schools even further, providing the devices and resources to help teachers make coding exciting, accessible, and something they can teach confidently to younger children.

Teaching digital skills from a young age has impressive results and understanding computational thinking can greatly enhance a child’s creativity and life chances. However, research underpinning the project from the Micro:bit Educational Foundation and Nominet found that 61% of UK primary teachers responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, 3 in 5 also cite lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing and digital skills.

Gareth Stockdale, CEO of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said: “Digital literacy and computational thinking are critically important not only to the future of our society, but to the future of children who will one day shape that society. They are increasingly important core skills, and we know that the earlier you learn them, the better. The micro:bit has become an essential tool that teachers and students alike have come to love. We’ve seen fantastic adoption in secondary schools, and we’re delighted to support and empower even more teachers to unlock children’s creative potential at primary level.”

Roll-out of the micro:bits will also complement a three-phase research programme, as the Foundation looks to assess, monitor and address the challenges, concerns and successes UK primary teachers experience improving digital literacy and in bringing micro:bits into the classroom.

Interested teachers and schools can visit the Micro:bit Educational Foundation website for more information.

Adam Leach, CTO, Nominet, said: “We are so pleased to see the continued roll-out of micro:bits in classrooms across the UK, enabling so many more primary school children to explore and develop their skills in digital creativity and computing. It’s exciting to think about the potential passion for technology this programme could set alight. On a practical level, it is really important that access to learning these essential skills is provided to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to discover, experiment and master them. Each one of the 57,000 devices will impact on developing children’s core digital skills as citizens of a digitalised world – and perhaps even put some of them on a pathway to help fill the digital skills gap in the UK’s digital workforce of the future.”

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the UK in 2016, with the aim of inspiring every child to create their best digital future.

We do this by:

  • developing hardware and software that inspires young people to get excited about technology and the opportunities it presents for them
  • creating free, user-friendly educational resources to support teachers in delivering engaging and creative lessons
  • working with like-minded partners to deliver high-impact educational programmes across the globe.

Note to editors

  • The micro:bit launched in the UK in 2016 by giving free devices to every year 7 student as part of BBC’s Make it Digital, an unprecedented and highly ambitious project. It is now not only being used in most secondary schools to teach 11 – 14-year olds but is also popular with primary school teachers for 8 – 11-year olds.
  • The Foundation has donated micro:bits to key institutions, including the National Centre for Computing Education’s schools lending scheme in England, Digital Xtra Fund in Scotland, Ulster Universities and Libraries NI in Northern Ireland. Through these schemes, approximately 30,000 devices were donated directly to schools, libraries and NGO’s.
  • The Foundation offered up to 5,000 micro:bits to families in the UK wanting to continue learning at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following a single tweet, the Foundation received 8,500 requests in 13 hours.
  • A key aim of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation was to bring the benefits of the micro:bit to children and teachers around the globe, and is being used in projects across Africa, Asia, Australasia, the Americas and Europe.
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30 Mar 2022

CodeClan partners with Baillie Gifford to launch youth academy

The following article appeared on insider.co.uk on 25 March 2022.


Scotland’s national digital skills academy CodeClan has partnered with Baillie Gifford, who have also supported Digital Xtra Fund’s grant awards programme since 2018, to launch a new youth-focused programme. The CodeClan Youth Academy will be aimed at young people aged 17 and over, providing them with programming skills required in an industry environment.

The eight-week course will be based in Edinburgh and include a four-week coding bootcamp at CodeClan followed by a four-week paid internship at an industry partner. With 10 spaces available in the first cohort, the programme starts on 4 July. CodeClan reckons students completing the course will be able to carry out tasks equivalent to the role of a junior front-end developer.

The bootcamp section at CodeClan will include training in HTML and CSS, presentation skills, JavaScript, NodeJS, and introductions to user experience and Angular.

Yvonne Robertson, chief of information systems staff at Baillie Gifford, said: “We believe it’s crucial that we all play a part in developing our young workforce and addressing the current digital skills gap by providing insight into the range of career opportunities within the technology sector.

“As an industry and a business community, we can collectively share our vast experience and knowledge to help guide young people to positive outcomes beyond school, such as apprenticeships or further education in tech.”

Melinda Matthews-Clarkson, chief executive at CodeClan, said: “We have a broad tech landscape in Scotland, from agriculture to creative industries and space tech, but we don’t have enough people to meet the growing needs of our economy – it’s time to rally the younger generation to build the skills we need to make our world a better place.”

In February, CodeClan partnered with Tigers, the Glasgow-based apprenticeship education provider, to co-deliver an education and mentorship programme aimed at providing more young people in Glasgow with the skills and confidence as a step towards securing employment.

Applications close on 6 May.

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15 Mar 2022

Digital Xtra Fund calls on industry to support digital skills with match funding from Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund is calling on industry to step up and support digital skills for young people. The Scottish charity – which funds meaningful extracurricular tech activities for young people through an annual grants programme – has secured £100,000 from the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to match fund industry’s support for the next cohort of activities. The funding has been made available on the back of 2020’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by Mark Logan, which recommended that school stage extracurricular tech activities be strategically supported.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government has granted £70,000 to Digital Xtra Fund to inspire young people across Scotland to boost their digital tech and coding skills and to discover future tech career opportunities. I echo the Fund’s call for industry to step up and support these extra-curricular clubs, which are helping to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The Fund now has until June, when the next round of funding recipients will be confirmed, to match fund the support. Current industry partners who have already committed to supporting the Fund’s next cohort include Chroma Ventures, Baillie Gifford, CGI, J.P. Morgan, Scotland Women in Technology, Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, and ScotlandIS.

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubChris van der Kuyl, Principal, Chroma Ventures, said: “Our investment in human talent must begin at an early age through primary and secondary, en route to colleges, universities, or apprenticeships. Extracurricular activities like those funded by Digital Xtra Fund play such an important role for young people on that pathway, especially for those who may not have computing opportunities in the classroom.”

Paddy Burns, Principal at Chroma Ventures and a Trustee with the Fund, agrees: “This is an amazing opportunity for the Fund’s partners to effectively double their contribution and inspire even more young people. We need more businesses to step up to the plate and help enable more exciting activities that also show young people the breadth of opportunities in tech.”

For the 2021/22 academic year, Digital Xtra Fund and its partners identified, financed, and aided 22 initiatives – ranging from coding clubs at four schools in Angus, a ‘Games for Good’ programme at Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre in Edinburgh, to a COP26-related collaboration around climate tech with SCDI’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs. If successful in match funding Government’s contribution, the Fund will be able to fund 35 to 40 new activities in 2022/23.

Kraig Brown and Maha AbhishekKraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnership and Development Manager said: “We are very excited to be able to offer this match funding with support from the Scottish Government and SDS. Scotland has the potential, the resources, and the will to punch well above its weight in tech innovation. However, the first step is inspiring young people to learn the digital skills they will need. The Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review highlighted the importance of extracurricular activities to inspire young people to create with tech and not simply consume it. Our hope is this funding is a first step to bring industry and government together to give every young person in Scotland an opportunity to positively engage with technology.”

Since being launched in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 in funding to digital skills initiatives, helping schools and organisations engage nearly 45,000 young people. In January, Digital Xtra Fund invited applications for its seventh cohort of initiatives which will drive digital skills for young people across Scotland in 2022/23. Applications close on Tuesday 5th April.

For more information: https://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/apply

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22 Feb 2022

How CGI’s Cyber Escape Experience provides a vital learning tool to boost cybersecurity

The following was written by CGI, and originally posted at futurescot.com.


In the two years since the outbreak of Covid-19, the world of work and communication for organisations, employees and stakeholders has changed beyond all recognition. The need to work from home, not to travel and to forego face-to-face meetings has seen a surge in remote working environments, and the use of digital channels, to manage and communicate with staff.

This has resulted in a growing opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit this move into the digital sphere with ever more sophisticated attacks, which in turn have brought new-found pressures to organisations, especially in the public sector, whose cybersecurity capabilities and resiliency are now being tested daily.

It’s created a ‘perfect storm’ for all of us when it comes to the range and scope of cyber threats, which have snared victims across every sector of society, some in a very public way.

With such increased problems comes increased opportunities for cybersecurity experts to find new ways of engaging with people to boost their knowledge and help them manage this rising threat.

CGI’s cybersecurity team has created a simple yet engaging way to assist in this process. It’s the Cyber Escape Experience – an escape room-style activity where people can learn about online security risks in a fun, interactive way. They team up to ‘beat the hacker’, and along the way learn about cybersecurity risks and how to avoid them.

The Experience is built within a shipping container and consists of a real-world setting of two rooms. Inside the rooms, groups of up to six work together to uncover clues, solve puzzles and accomplish cyber-related tasks to ‘escape’ in the time allowed by the ‘Gamesmasters’ – young CGI members trained to prompt and assist those taking part.

Lyndsey Teaz, business unit leader for CGI in Scotland, said: “The Cyber Escape Experience is a wonderful way of educating people to protect yourself online. It supports not only the education of children – the next generation of cybersecurity experts in Scotland – but also more ‘grown-up’ clients looking to upgrade their skills.”

The Cyber Escape Experience’s first journey to Scotland saw it visit Kemnay Academy, Aberdeenshire. There, the school’s S1 year revelled in the opportunity to learn critical skills in the simulated setting through the interactive activities, much like other escape rooms.

Through the Gamesmasters they learned about protecting their privacy and creating strong passwords, physical security, device and document handling, and navigating social media. Every pupil loved the ‘escape room’ experience, leaving with a far better knowledge of protecting themselves in the cyber world.

Now it’s back for Cyber Scotland Week, based at St Andrews RC School in Glasgow where it will put more pupils through their paces. From there, it is going on to North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and the Borders, where NHS staff and executives will follow the rules laid down by the Gamesmasters. Lyndsey Teaz added: “That is the beauty of the experience. It works for all age groups across all sectors – as everyone’s lives, both working and personal, are now touched by all things cyber.

“CGI stands ready to help all those who want to learn more about cybersecurity, which is why we are delighted to be participating in this year’s Futurescot Cyber Security Scotland conference.”

CGI senior cyber consultant John Hales will present a masterclass at the Futurescot conference, focusing on how, during Covid-19, the rush to enable a hybrid workforce may have resulted in security taking a backseat to productivity. More information is available here.

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