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Coding, computing, web development and digital animation are just some of the activities that could benefit from Digital Xtra, a new fund dedicated to widening access to extracurricular computing related projects in Scotland which is now open for applications.

Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, ScotlandIS and Education Scotland have developed the £250,000 fund in partnership as part of a programme of activity dedicated to developing skills and making extracurricular computing clubs accessible to all young people aged 16 and under, wherever they live in Scotland.

A panel of experts from Scotland’s digital technologies industry, Scottish Government and education will evaluate applications.

The fund is calling for applications from a wide range of organisations with the capability to deliver, as well as from existing projects who are encouraged to use the opportunity to pioneer new approaches or expand to rural areas. The panel will prioritise projects that demonstrate scalability, sustainability and innovative ways of engaging additional young people, especially in areas where there is a shortage of provision.

Projects must involve young people in activities that develop computational thinking rather than simply consuming or learning about technologies. Successful applications will include activities which increase the number of young people taking part in computer science related activities across Scotland, improve participation of girls and underrepresented groups, dispel negative perceptions about computing science activities, promote computing science as an attractive career path and result in more young people selecting computing science related courses in school and further education.

Collaborative applications involving different partners and more than one extracurricular initiative are encouraged as well as projects that foster greater links between industry and young people.

Over 84,000 people work in digital technologies roles across the Scottish economy, and skills development will be an integral component in helping young people prepare for the digital future. The new fund has been developed in response to recommendations in the Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s ICT and Digital Technologies Sector which identified the potential for 11,000 highly paid job opportunities in Scotland each year until 2020.

Leadership and employability

Polly Purvis, chief executive of the trade body for the digital technologies industry, ScotlandIS, says: “Engaging in extracurricular activities is a brilliant way for young people to develop confidence, self esteem, leadership and employability skills. This is incredibly important as we strive to develop the talent pipeline and ensure the competitiveness of Scottish companies both within the ICT and digital technologies sector and beyond.”

Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for ICT and digital technology skills at Skills Development Scotland says: “This is not an additional funding opportunity for ‘business as usual’ – instead we are particularly looking for fresh and innovative ideas which are sustainable. We want to see projects that will support and inspire as well as showing value for money by making the most of local networks and partnerships. It is our aim to reach those young people who have not previously been able to access the many exciting and challenging projects which are already on offer in this fast moving area.”

Joyce MacLennan, head of finance and business services at Highlands and Islands Enterprise says: “One of the key objectives of this fund is to target underrepresented groups and geographic areas that are currently underserved by extracurricular computing science projects. To do this effectively, local engagement is vital so we would encourage applicants to show how they have worked with people in the community to identify need and opportunities, and establish partnerships where possible to get the best results.”

“This is not an additional funding opportunity for ‘business as usual’ – instead we are particularly looking for fresh and innovative ideas which are sustainable."

Claire Gillespie, Skills Development Scotland

The Digital Xtra fund will be administered centrally by Skills Development Scotland and applications can be made via Public Contracts Scotland. The Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership will provide funding for the first year and it is anticipated that industry, employers and other funders will contribute in subsequent years, making this a sustainable approach.

A total of £250,000 grant funding is available for projects that will be completed by 31 March 2017. Organisations can bid for grants from £500 to a maximum of £50,000 per project.

Applications are open now and the deadline is 12 noon on Friday 17 June. Applications received after the closing data will not be considered.

Visit Public Contracts Scotland to apply.

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