A Scottish charity is calling on industry to “step up” and match funding worth £100,000 from government to help equip young people with digital skills.
Linlithgow-based Digital Xtra Fund, which funds tech activities for young people through an annual grants programme, has secured £70,000 from the Scottish Government and £30,000 from Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
The cash has been made available on the back of 2020’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan, which recommended that school stage extracurricular tech activities be strategically supported.
It is understood that Digital Xtra Fund has so far raised somewhere in the region of £75,000 from the private sector, with a view to reaching £100,000 by the beginning of April.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government has granted £70,000 to Digital Xtra Fund to inspire young people across Scotland to boost their digital tech and coding skills and to discover future tech career opportunities.
“I echo the fund’s call for industry to step up and support these extracurricular clubs, which are helping to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
The charity now has until June, when the next round of funding recipients will be confirmed, to match fund the support.
Current industry partners who have already committed to supporting the fund’s next cohort include Chroma Ventures, Baillie Gifford, CGI, JP Morgan, Scotland Women in Technology, Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, and ScotlandIS.
Chris van der Kuyl, principal, Chroma Ventures, said: “Our investment in human talent must begin at an early age through primary and secondary, en route to colleges, universities, or apprenticeships.
“Extracurricular activities like those funded by Digital Xtra Fund play such an important role for young people on that pathway, especially for those who may not have computing opportunities in the classroom.”
Paddy Burns, principal at Chroma Ventures and a trustee with the fund, added: “This is an amazing opportunity for the fund’s partners to effectively double their contribution and inspire even more young people. We need more businesses to step up to the plate and help enable more exciting activities that also show young people the breadth of opportunities in tech.”
For the 2021-22 academic year, Digital Xtra Fund and its partners identified, financed, and aided 22 initiatives – ranging from coding clubs at four schools in Angus, a ‘Games for Good’ programme at Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre in Edinburgh, to a Cop26-related collaboration around climate tech with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s (SCDI) Young Engineers and Science Clubs.
If successful in match funding the government’s contribution, it will also be able to fund 35 to 40 new activities in 2022-23.
Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s partnership and development manager, said: “We are very excited to be able to offer this match funding with support from the Scottish Government and SDS. Scotland has the potential, the resources, and the will to punch well above its weight in tech innovation.
“However, the first step is inspiring young people to learn the digital skills they will need. The Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review highlighted the importance of extracurricular activities to inspire young people to create with tech and not simply consume it.
“Our hope is this funding is a first step to bring industry and government together to give every young person in Scotland an opportunity to positively engage with technology.”
Since being launched in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 in funding to digital skills initiatives, helping schools and organisations engage nearly 45,000 young people.
In January, Digital Xtra Fund invited applications for its seventh cohort of initiatives which will drive digital skills for young people across Scotland in 2022-23.
Applications for funding for initiatives driving digital skills for young people close on Tuesday 5 April.