Fund secures £100k and calls on industry to help boost digital skills for young people

A plea has been made for industry to “step up” and support digital skills for young people after a charity secured £100,000 in Government funding.

Digital Xtra Fund, which funds extracurricular tech activities for young people through an annual grants programme, has netted the funding from the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to match fund industry’s support for the next cohort of activities.

The cash injection has been made available on the back of 2020’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by Mark Logan, which recommended that school stage extracurricular tech activities be strategically supported.

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The fund now has until June, when the next round of funding recipients will be confirmed, to match fund the support.

Kraig Brown and Maha Abhishek of Digital Xtra Fund, and Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns of Chroma Ventures. Picture: Stewart Attwood

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 SCDI’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs.

If successful in match funding the Government contribution, the fund will be able to back 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, the fund invited applications for its seventh cohort of initiatives.

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