From Orkney to Dumfries & Galloway, a sum of £50,000 has been shared between 11 sustainable initiatives to introduce over 3,000 young people to digital technologies, and show them the range of career opportunities these skills will provide. Five awardees are new initiatives which demonstrated a creative and fun way to engage young people, with the remaining six projects set to build on activities previously supported by Digital Xtra Fund.
The aim of Digital Xtra Fund is for every young person in Scotland to have access to a digitally creative activity regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. The Fund is particularly keen to engage audiences underrepresented in the digital technologies industry, especially girls and young women, and looked to support initiatives that showed a healthy gender split and were delivered in areas often excluded from extracurricular digital activities through lack of local resources or facilities.
When The Prince’s Trust was founded in 1976, digital technology was still in its infancy. It is now projected by 2020, 90% of careers will require some degree of digital skills. Support from Digital Xtra Fund will enable the Trust to deliver a series of digital industry days for young people in their Achieve programme, a personal development programme for young people who are at risk of disengaging from formal education. Participants will have the opportunity to try coding, meet employers, and learn about future digital careers.
Edinburgh International Science Festival will revisit ten Primary schools in Dumfries & Galloway and South Lanarkshire who took part in last year’s successful LEGO Mindstorms workshops. This year, pupils will get the chance to experience a brand-new workshop, Roboconstructors, where pupils will build reactive robots. Pupils will learn about robotics while developing new skills in programing and engineering as well as expanding their design and critical thinking abilities.
Support from Digital Xtra Fund will allow New College Lanarkshire to expand their VEX Robotics programme and enable 8 additional teams from secondary schools across Lanarkshire to take part in the VEX Robotics Competition. VEX Competitions bring STEM skills to life by tasking teams to design, build, and programme a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge with the winning teams progressing to the UK finals.
Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “The digital skills gap is well documented, and we believe the best way to tackle this gap is to engage young people through extracurricular activities, where they can be themselves in an informal and creative setting. Initiatives supported by the Fund will inspire them to be more than just digital consumers; they can be digital makers too.
“It’s been incredibly inspiring to see the quality and diversity of activities that organisations across the country have come up with. They are fun, engaging, and with the help of Digital Xtra Fund, they are more widely available than ever before. This is very encouraging for the future of digital technologies in Scotland.”
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is great to see the Digital Xtra Fund supporting deserving extracurricular digital skills projects across Scotland, benefiting over 3000 young people. The Scottish Government recently launched its STEM strategy, which aims to inspire and enthuse everyone to study STEM and build STEM skills. Charities such as the Digital Xtra Fund, who are enabling inspiring digital and STEM projects to flourish and encourage more young people into the sector, are making a significant contribution to this important agenda.
Damien Yeates, Chief Executive of Skills Development Scotland said: “We are delighted to the see Digital Xtra Fund going from strength to strength and supporting projects which are addressing the gender imbalance and encouraging more girls into tech. The digital technology sector in Scotland is booming and the Fund is now well established to work with Scottish employers to collectively support extracurricular digital activities for young people. This is a great way to encourage the next generation of digital makers into the tech sector.”
Now established as an independent charity, Digital Xtra Fund is seeking further support to give every young person in Scotland opportunity to get involved in extracurricular digital activities. Actively working with Scotland’s industries, Digital Xtra Fund is currently raising funds for its 2018 grant awards. Companies interested in supporting young people to gain the digital skills for the future can find out more information at www.digitalxtrafund.scot.