A digital skills charity is to award £110,000 in grants to local tech and coding clubs for young people across Scotland.

Digital Xtra Fund will issue 26 grants this year spanning 18 local authorities, reaching approximately 3,000 children and young people across the country. 

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s partnership and development manager, said: “We received 143 applications this year, compared to 94 last year and around 60 per year before Covid. This clearly shows an increasing determination to positively engage young people with tech both in and out of the classroom.

“We also saw a higher percentage of applications for local, community-based tech and coding clubs as opposed to larger events. These clubs usually run for 6-8 weeks multiple times a year, allowing educators to create a more enriching and impactful experience for learners. This year’s initiatives are also, once again, planning to engage a higher percentage of girls than boys. This is incredible and shows the value of extracurricular activities like these.” 

This year’s grants include the ‘NextGen Coding Club’ by the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers in Aberdeen, ‘Roving Robots’ by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the Western Isles, an all-girls’ ‘DigiSTEM Club’ in East Renfrewshire, the ‘Hillhead Digi Den and Technology Playground’ by Hillhead Primary School in Glasgow, ‘Tech Sheds’ at three libraries in Midlothian, and the ‘St Andrews RC Primary Coding and Robotics Club’ in Dundee.  

This marks the eighth cohort of tech initiatives since Digital Xtra Fund was launched in 2016. The charity supports extracurricular activities for young people at the primary and secondary school age to drive digital skills and has secured nearly £1 million for tech clubs and initiatives around the country since its inception.  

The Benzies Foundation and Outplay Entertainment are two new backers this year joining a list that includes Baillie Gifford, CGI, Chroma Ventures, and J.P. Morgan as well as Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, ScotlandIS, and Skyscanner. The Scottish Government will also once again match their support for 2023/24.

A spokesperson for Outplay Entertainment said: “The Outplay Academy is thrilled to partner with Digital Xtra Fund in supporting local tech and coding clubs for young people across Scotland. Our commitment to fostering creativity, innovation, and inclusion aligns perfectly with the values of the Outplay Academy and the mission of Digital Xtra Fund. Together, we look forward to empowering the next generation of digital leaders and inspiring them to reach new heights in the world of technology.”

Digital Xtra Fund will also soon launch Code Like Kids, a new learning and development opportunity aimed at industry and corporate executives. Participants will get hands-on with popular devices such as micro:bits, Sphero indis, LEGO SPIKE Prime, and Marty the Robot. 

Brown added: “We saw companies become more connected to initiatives after getting involved; however, we also received feedback that while staff were keen to engage with young people, they were anxious doing so being unfamiliar with tools such as block coding or the type of kit found in many clubs. We created Code Like Kids to teach these skills but what we didn’t appreciate is that it’s also a fantastic learning opportunity for all organisations, not just tech companies, as it also teaches teamwork, creativity, and problem solving.” 

He said: “Companies will be able to book a Code Like Kids session with a donation to the Fund meaning not only will they be giving their staff a fun and unique experience, but they will also be enabling more tech activities for young people across Scotland. It’s a win-win.”