Charity funding supports dozens of digital skills initiatives for young people across Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund has distributed 35 grants to cover 24 local authorities, including 23 primary schools, three secondary schools, three colleges, two libraries and four additional education bodies, for a total of around £150,000. The grants, which will help implement digital skills initiatives throughout the current academic year, are up from 22 last year, when total funding was £100,000.

Initiatives supported include a coding club at Hillside Primary School in Aberdeenshire, an after-school girls-only robotics club at Kirkliston Primary School in Edinburgh in partnership with Scottish start-up Robotical, a club of Lego Leaders code at St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Dundee, a coding club at Stromness Academy in Orkney using Otto robots, and a joint coding club with Cadder and St Mary’s Primary Schools in Glasgow.

Since its launch in 2016, the Linlithgow-based Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £875,000 in funding, helping schools and organizations engage over 40,000 young people. From the corporate sector, the main backers are Baillie Gifford, CGI, Chroma Ventures, JP Morgan and Scotland Women in Technology, as well as Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, ScotlandIS and Skyscanner.

Kraig Brown, Head of Partnerships and Development, Digital Xtra Fund, said, “We are extremely pleased to be able to support many more initiatives this year, as well as a wider range of activities. This year’s entries show renewed interest in digital skills initiatives after a few difficult years. We know we need to positively engage more young Scots in digital technology to help them reach their potential in the future economy and in an increasingly digital world, and after-school activities are the perfect way to do this.

Sam Pattman, Head of Philanthropy, Baillie Gifford, said: “Baillie Gifford is very pleased to continue supporting the Digital Xtra Fund. Through our business, we know the importance of digital skills and ensure that young people are prepared for what lies ahead. Extracurricular activities can reach and engage a wider range of young people, as evidenced by the variety of grant recipients this year.

“We have always been impressed with the charity’s ambition and reach across Scotland, and we look forward to hearing more about the initiatives supported over the year.”

Last year, Digital Xtra Fund also secured funding from the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to match fund industry support, following Mark Logan’s 2020 Scottish Tech Ecosystem Review which recommended that extracurricular technology activities be strategically supported.

Local children learn digital skills at the Heart of Midlothian FC Innovation Centre. Photo: David Mollison

Business Minister Ivan McKee said: “The review of Scotland’s tech ecosystem has called for action to encourage more young people and girls to get into IT. The Scottish Government’s £100,000 funding will support these 35 projects to boost the development of digital skills. We hope this will inspire a new generation of tech entrepreneurs by building the digital skills of young people across Scotland.

A digital engineering club at North East Scotland College in Aberdeenshire is another initiative attracting support.