J.P. Morgan – the multibillion dollar US finance giant – has joined the list of donors to a Scottish digital skills charity which aims to train up the next generation of tech workers.

The multinational investment house has agreed to support the Digital Xtra Fund as a ‘Gigabyte partner’ – by donating over £15,000 to the charity, which provides extracurricular tech skills training for young people. Amazon Web Services also joined the funding programme this week as a ‘megabyte partner’, which requires a donation of at least £5,000.

Digital Xtra Fund was set up in 2016 – with partners including Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland – and is now on its fifth funding round; it is backed by the likes of travel giant Skyscanner and investment fund managers Baillie Gifford, the other two ‘Gigabyte partners’.

The funding will support Digital Xtra deliver 22 separate extracurricular digital skills programmes – including Apps for Good and Young Engineers – which help support under-16s with vital coding skills which are high in demand Scottish tech sector needs.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, said: “J.P. Morgan’s support is vital in enabling us to make a real impact on the lives of young people around Scotland. Our partners not only provide financial support but their staff can also volunteer to speak with young people about careers in tech, putting a personal face to the variety of roles these skills can lead to.

“Bringing together industry and young people is a key element to what Digital Xtra Fund is trying to achieve. Negative stereotypes about careers in tech are still very much alive when speaking with young people and their families. Connecting young people and industry professionals, especially those who only recently started their careers, can make a significant impact on young peoples’ perceptions about what is a career in tech as well as the variety of opportunities available in Scotland. It is especially important we have relevant role models and mentors to inspire more women and minorities to pursue roles in tech too.

Brown said: “J.P. Morgan supports many amazing philanthropic initiatives around the globe, so to have their support for our work here in Scotland is hugely appreciated and also speaks to the importance of what we are trying to achieve. These skills are vital for both young people and to the future Scottish economy. Only by working together can we make a positive difference.”

Research commissioned by Skills Development Scotland in 2019 estimated there are over 13,000 tech job opportunities available in Scotland every year – an increase of 16% on previous forecasts. However, with only around 6,600 people entering the Scottish job market each year with relevant tech skills, there is an undersupply of talent to fulfil those positions. The difference in supply and demand means some businesses and organisations face inhibited growth while others may need to leave Scotland in search of more talent, according to the Digital Xtra Fund; the fund generates around 68% of its funding from the private sector and 32% from the public sector and in 2017-18 raised just under £100,000.

J.P. Morgan, which recently announced plans for a new technology centre in Glasgow, where it already has a presence, also runs its own Tech for Social Good programme, which fosters innovation and provides opportunities for J.P. Morgan employees to use their technology expertise to give back to the communities in which they live and work.

Robbie Robinson, global co-lead of Tech for Social Good Youth Programmes at J.P. Morgan, said: “There is currently a huge IT skills gap in Scotland, and the only long-term solution is to encourage more youngsters to become interested in computer science and STEM subjects in school so they will consider a career in technology when they leave.

“This is the key reason why J.P. Morgan has become a Gigabyte partner with Digital Xtra Fund. All businesses need to invest in tomorrow’s workforce now otherwise the skills gap is going to persist.  Young people need to be inspired by technology and made more aware of the fantastic career opportunities that are available.  

He adds: “If our economy is to thrive, we need people with the right skills and that starts from a young age.  Digital Xtra Fund has done a great job of reaching out to girls and other under-represented groups in tech and we want to see this continue.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.