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Digital Xtra, BT: Help Secure Scotland’s Future Digital Skills

Brian Baglow

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Digital Xtra Fund Partners BT

Digital Xtra and BT are calling for more companies to help young people understand, engage and create with digital technologies.

Digital Xtra, the charity which makes computer science activities available to young people across Scotland has partnered with BT to help extend the organisation’s work and reach a wider audience.

The companies have also issued a joint call for more businesses to work with Digital Xtra and ensure that Scotland is producing future generations of digital creators and makers.

Digital Xtra focuses on inclusion to ensure that young people who are not currently engaged with digital technologies, including girls and young women, get access to the equipment, resources and support they require to learn and enjoy using creative technical skills.

Joined-Up Approach

Scotland’s Minister for Further and Higher Education, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “The Digital Xtra Fund is a new and innovative approach bringing the public and private sector together in a coordinated way to support digital skills for young people.

“It is critical that industry also gets behind this joined up approach and supports the Digital Xtra Fund to ensure every young person in Scotland has the opportunity to understand and create with digital technologies, as well as appreciate the future opportunities these skills will provide. Only through partnership and collaboration can we effectively increase the quantity, and importantly the quality, of digitally creative experiences for all young people.”

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “We recognise the importance of a joined-up approach within industry to address the digital skills gap and the role the Digital Xtra Fund plays in coordinating this. It needs the support and financial backing of industry in order for it to have maximum impact and reach as many young people as possible. This is a real opportunity for Scotland’s companies to come together and be part of the solution to the digital skills gap.”

BT’s support for the Digital Xtra Fund forms part of the company’s long-term commitment to help build a culture of tech literacy across the whole of the UK, reaching 5,000,000 young people by 2020.

But What Can We Do…?

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra’s Partnerships & Development Manager, added: “Speaking with companies across various sectors, I often hear, ‘Yes, digital skills are hugely important in our sector, but what can we do with limited time and resources’. This unfortunately leads to peaks and troughs in support and varying levels of activity provision across the country.

“The Digital Xtra Fund is a coordinated approach that easily enables any business to be part of an overarching strategy to increase digital skills in young people, ensuring a larger impact and legacy. I encourage any business that understands the importance of digital skills for young people and the value of a coordinated approach to partner with the Fund.”

Securing The Future

The Digital Xtra Fund was launched in May 2016 by the Scottish Government, in partnership with public and private sector bodies including Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and ScotlandIS, to act as a pivot point between the private and public sector in order to more efficiently support digital skills activities for young people and help communicate career pathways. It was spun out as an independent charity in March 2017.

In 2016, the Digital Xtra Fund supported 22 projects across Scotland, engaging 15,000 young people. Applications for the most recent funding round, the first as an independent charity, closed 1 September. Grants of up to £5000 will be awarded to projects which teach concepts like computational thinking, coding, digital creativity, and data science in a fun and inspiring environment. Projects will be chosen by a panel of experts made up of key players in Scotland’s tech industry with successful awardees for 2017/18 being announced shortly.

The Digital Xtra Fund is now establishing a 2018/19 funding round and is looking partner with likeminded individuals, businesses, and organisations who are also keen to increase the availability of extracurricular computing activities for young people across Scotland.

Interested companies can visit www.digitalxtrafund.scot for more information.

Movers and shakers

Brian Baglow

Editor

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