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Fund to support digital activities for young people

23 March 2016

A new approach to increase access to extra curricular digital activities for young people and schools in Scotland is being developed in partnership by Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and ScotlandIS.

A key feature of this approach is to establish a fund to support activities that help young people to develop digital skills which prepare them for careers in the digital technology sector.

The fund is part of a wider programme of activity which will see a joined up and coordinated approach to how extra curricular activities such as coding clubs are supported.

Each of the partners is committed to broadening the future talent pipeline for digital technology skills and recognises the valuable role played by extracurricular groups in creating passion and enthusiasm for technical subjects.

Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for ICT and digital technology skills at SDS, said: “Extracurricular and enrichment activities make an incredibly important contribution to skills education. Programmes such as the First Lego League, which saw a Scottish team beat competition from across the UK to get to the international finals, inspire young people with the possibilities of digital skills outside the classroom.

“Our ultimate long-term aim is for every child in Scotland to have access to digital technology skills opportunities, offering the chance to try things that might not be possible during the school day.”

The new approach is designed to ensure consistent extracurricular and enrichment provision is available across Scotland and will allow public sector bodies, Scottish Government, voluntary sector and industry to work together to disburse resources in a more coordinated way. A key element of this project will be for industry, education and public sector representatives to collectively agree how they will support activities to ensure young people across the whole country can benefit.

The new system will help funders to prioritise the best and most relevant initiatives as funding requests will be reviewed together. This will support an industry led and sustainable approach to funding such initiatives. It will also make it easier to evaluate interventions including value for money and make recommendations for future delivery.

In addition, all extracurricular digital initiatives will be mapped to the curriculum to enable schools and teachers to make best use of them. Online resources will be developed to increase awareness of the full range of initiatives and best practice case studies and ideas will be made available for teachers and schools.

Information will be made available to the public to allow school pupils, parents and volunteers to search for initiatives in their local area and find out how they can get involved.

Joyce MacLennan, head of finance and business services for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “This project is intended to ensure young people wherever they are based can participate in activities to increase their digital skills. It is often difficult for schools in more rural areas to attend events or access activities. This project is looking at ways to overcome any barriers and increase participation.”

Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said: “Our industry offers a huge variety of opportunities to young people and we need to get this message across before they start making subject choices. After school activities can make a huge difference to how young people view subjects like computing by giving them the chance to try new things and use their imaginations.”

The Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership will provide funding for the first year, and it is hoped that industry, employers and other funders will contribute in subsequent years, making this a sustainable approach.

Scotland’s digital technologies industry generates more than £5 billion in GVA and employs around 84,000 people. A Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s ICT and Digital Technologies Sector was launched in 2014 and identified the potential for 11,000 job opportunities in Scotland each year until 2020, often paying well above average.

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