Time to apply for digital skills funding

Scotland’s Digital Xtra fund launched in May and awarded £250,000 to 12 projects, which expect to reach a combined total of 10,500 young people across the country by March next year. An additional £150,000 has been made available in response to the high number of applications received for the first round of funding.

Applications opened this week via Public Contracts Scotland and eligible organisations can bid for grants from £1,500 to a maximum £25,000 per project to support computing science and digital skills focused extracurricular activities for 2016/17. The deadline for submissions is noon on Friday 4 November this year.

Funding is intended to support enterprising organisations that give young people aged 16 and under opportunities to learn computer science related digital skills and contribute to widening the provision of extracurricular computing science related activities across Scotland.

Scottish Government strategy sets out a plan to make Scotland a world-class digital nation by 2020. More than 84,000 people work in digital technologies roles across the Scottish economy and skills development will be an integral component in helping young people prepare for the digital future. Career opportunities are significant, with up to an estimated 11,000 job opportunities available in Scotland annually.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said: “The Scottish Government is determined to close the digital skills gap faced by all sectors across the economy.

“We made clear our commitment to invest in the digital skills of our young people in the digital teaching and learning strategy we published last week. This additional funding for Digital Xtra will give thousands more young people opportunities to strengthen their digital skills through their engagement in a range of innovative projects.”

Digital Xtra has been developed and funded by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership whose partners include Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Funding Council, Education Scotland, ScotlandIS, and industry representatives. It is anticipated that industry, employers and other funders will contribute to the fund in subsequent years, making this a sustainable approach.

Applications will be assessed by an expert panel which includes representatives from across Scotland’s digital technologies industry, Scottish Government and education.

Phil Worms, Computing and Schools Project Lead at ScotlandIS, added: “The panel was impressed by the many innovative ideas and partnerships received in the first round so it is fantastic to be able to offer a further funding opportunity this year and make extracurricular computing activities available to even more young people.

“Once again we are very keen to see collaborative applications involving different partners and projects that foster greater links between industry, young people and the wider community. Projects should also show how participants will be involved in digital making and what computer science related skills they will learn.”

The Digital Xtra Fund welcomes applications from existing initiatives looking to expand their activities, as well as from innovative new projects and pilots that could be rolled out further in future. All applicants should clearly demonstrate potential for scalability and sustainability, as well as showing how they will reach previously underrepresented groups.

A total of £250,000 was awarded to 12 projects in August, supporting a diverse range of activities including the use of wildlife cameras to help school pupils learn to code using Raspberry Pi computers, coding taught through local libraries, and a forensic investigation project.