Skyscanner has increased its contribution to Digital Xtra Fund's grants programme to £32,500, making it the Fund's largest supporter from the private sector. The Fund provides grants to enable digital skills activities for young people across Scotland.
The Scottish company has a strong culture of giving back to the community and working with charities and start-ups. Now a tech unicorn, the company has committed to helping inspire the next generation of digital leaders. In 2018, Skyscanner formalised their charitable giving including a focus on supporting technology education and training at schools' level and beyond.
Skyscanner has teamed up with Digital Xtra Fund to engage more young people in tech including girls and young women and areas excluded through lack of resources or facilities. As part of Digital Xtra Fund's grant application process, activity providers are asked to describe how they will engage these key audiences and ultimately increase the number and diversity of young people learning advanced digital skills.
Skyscanner's support has helped enable the Fund to double the 2019 grants programme to £100,000 and support 22 computing activities across the country. Topics include robotics, coding, app development and the Internet of Things. Supported activities are projected to engage 9,920 young people including 5,060 girls and young women this year.
Digital Xtra Fund believes that inspiring young people to understand and create with technology is essential to the future wellbeing of Scotland. The exponential growth of tech will only drive the demand for digital talent. If young people aren't aware of this, or the range of jobs these skills open up, Scotland could be left behind. Reaching young people and changing long-held stereotypes can be a challenge though.
"How do young people even know about the world of tech? It's not something I knew much about when I was at school," explains Michael Hall, senior engineering manager, at Skyscanner.
"The work Digital Xtra Fund is doing is extremely important, and this is why we are so happy to increase our support. Encouraging the next generation to embrace digital learning and technology is vital for the future of Scotland's thriving tech sector, as well as our wider economy. Our founder, Gareth, took his first steps towards building Skyscanner at the age of 11 when he started learning assembly language with his dad, creating his own basic computer games. More young people need these types of opportunities to see what is possible. We need to show young people that a career in tech is possible, exciting and very rewarding."
"Skyscanner believes that charitable efforts should not only help people, but also create shared economic value with the community, in this case, by giving young people the skills they need to succeed whilst also developing a stronger, future talent pool for the Scottish tech industry. This is why our partnership with Digital Xtra Fund works so well. We want everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, location or economic background, to see tech as a welcoming and exciting career. We're delighted to support the Fund and urge other like-minded businesses to do the same as we all need to take action now to ensure a strong future."
Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, adds: "Skyscanner are a fantastic supporter of the Fund and really get what we are trying to achieve. The reality is there is a shortage of computer science teachers in Scotland; a 24% reduction over the past 10 years. It may not be enough to rely on formal education to reach all audiences. By supporting an ecosystem of extracurricular computing activities across Scotland, we can support teachers through other organisations and digital professionals who have the knowledge, enthusiasm and experience to speak about tech careers and teach these skills.
"Our goal is for all young people across Scotland to have access to digital activities and understand the near limitless possibilities these skills will provide. The numbers are very positive - nearly 10,000 young people engaging with tech this year alone - and we're seeing the benefits these grants are creating. Partnering with more companies will enable us to only increase the impact year-on-year. Hopefully Skyscanner's example can inspire other businesses and organisations to also partner with us so we can help reach even more young people."