Charity pledges funding boost for kids' digital skills

Projects aimed at nurturing the next generation of digital talent could be in line for a financial boost from a newly-formed charity.

Wednesday, 14th June 2017, 12:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th June 2017, 3:53 pm
ComputerXplorers is among the projects to have been backed by the Digital Xtra Fund. Picture: Tom Finnie

The Digital Xtra Fund, which was launched last year and in March became the first initiative of its kind to achieve charitable status, has made a total of £50,000 available for projects designed to inspire young people to pursue careers in areas such as coding, data science and “digital making”.

Partnerships and development manager Kraig Brown said: “Our aim is to drive innovation and engagement through a large network of digital skills providers across Scotland, including teachers running clubs outside school hours, as well as helping create links between industry and skills providers.

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“Most importantly, we want to improve digital skills among young people by supporting high-quality extracurricular activities; thereby preparing them better for a digital future and inspiring them to consider a career in digital tech.”

A key objective of the charity is to close the gender gap in the digital sector by encouraging more girls to consider studying Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects in school.

Brown added: “Projects funded by the Digital Xtra Fund have done fantastic work that has reached thousands of young people across the country already. This is our first round of funding since we received official charitable status so we’d like to thank everyone who has supported us to get here.”

The Scottish Government’s digital strategy sets out plans to increase the number of people in digital technology roles to 150,000 by 2021. Career opportunities in the sector are said to be “significant”, with an estimated 12,800 job opportunities available in Scotland each year.

The Digital Xtra Fund was set up with funding from the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership before being spun out as an independent charity in March. Some £400,000 was awarded to 22 projects last year – reaching about 15,000 young people across the country – including an initiative called ComputerXplorers that delivered computing workshops in a range of high schools across East Lothian.

The fund’s private and public sector supporters include BT Scotland, Be Positive, Edge Testing, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, ScotlandIS, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Its latest round of funding opens for applications tomorrow, with the window closing on 1 September, and each project can apply for up to £5,000. A panel made up of Scottish technology industry experts will chose the successful applicants, with funding due to be awarded to the winners in mid-October.