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Scottish charity funds 22 initiatives to drive digital skills for youngsters
Local kids learning digital skills at Heart of Midlothian FC's Innovation Centre. Supplied/Digital Xtra Fund
Education & Skills

Scottish charity funds 22 initiatives to drive digital skills for youngsters 

A Linlithgow-based charity has invested grant awards worth over £100,000 in 22 initiatives to help drive digital skills for youngsters in Scotland.

Digital Xtra Fund, which is backed by both the public and corporate sectors, will help some 7,250 young people aged 16 and under across the country learn about “the vast opportunities with tech.”

The funding ranges from delivering coding clubs at four schools across Angus, a ‘Games for Good’ initiative for teens at Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre, introducing hundreds of young people to cyber security at Aberdeen Science Centre, and a Cop26-related collaboration around climate tech with SCDI’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs.  

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s partnerships and development manager, said the fund’s goal is “for every young person in Scotland to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live”.

He added: “The past 18 months have really proven the importance and value of what we’re doing, but also shown us we need to increase our ambitions now if we want to reach our goal before it’s too late. We want educators, youth workers, and others across the country to be confident in starting a coding club in their community so all young people have an opportunity to learn about digital tech regardless of what courses their school may offer.

“One thing we’ve been looking at is how to scale up the fantastic work we’ve seen over the past five years and support the development of hundreds of ‘tech clubs’ where kids could learn various skills and try different types of kit in informal and creative ways.”

Left to right in photo are Kraig Brown, Maha Abhishek (both of Digital Xtra Fund), Kelly Gardner (Heart of Midlothian FC) and John Wordsworth-Goodram (CGI). Supplied/Digital Xtra Fund

Since being launched in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 of funding to digital skills initiatives across Scotland, helping schools and organisations engage over 35,000 young people.

Brown said: “Our model is very simple – we work with our industry partners to identify, finance, and assist tech initiatives across the country. The more industry backing we have, the more initiatives we can support, and the more young people we can engage with tech.” 

Major funders include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Baillie Gifford, CGI, JP Morgan and, most recently, Dundee-based Chroma Ventures.

Other funders include Accenture, BT, Cirrus Logic, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS and Skyscanner. 

CGI, one of the largest IT and business consulting services firms in the world, which has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the Borders, has continued and increased its support for 2021-22.

Lyndsey Teaz, vice president, CGI in Scotland, said: “We are delighted to maintain our strong support for Digital Xtra Fund. As an organisation we believe passionately in supporting the communities in which we live and work and it has never been more important to encourage talent and innovation in our sector. It is tremendous to see so many young people being helped on their journey and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming months.”

On Mark Logan’s Scottish Government-commissioned Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review in 2020, Brown said: “Mark Logan spelt things out again recently when he described the state of computing science in our schools as an educational emergency.  It really is that important and we want to be one of the key parts in the ecosystem that brings about real and effective change.  On the plus side, it feels like we’re at a watershed moment and things are starting to move in the right direction.” 

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