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DCMS launches fund to increase diversity in tech

More than £1m is being put aside to increase the amount of diversity in technology, and to teach disabled people digital skills

The government is to invest £1m in a Digital Skills Innovation Fund that will aim to increase the amount of diversity in digital and technology roles.

The fund will be used to give under-represented groups the skills needed for digital roles to give them more opportunity to enter the industry.

A further £400,000 will be invested in a Digital Inclusion Fund aimed at teaching older people and disabled people digital skills to help them navigate modern life.

This could include the skills to perform tasks such as booking a GP appointment online, using apps for communication and using search engines.

The Digital Inclusion Fund will open in September, and is one of the objectives of the government’s Digital Strategy.

Minister for digital Margot James said: “It is crucial that everyone is able to take advantage of digital technology, whether it is to learn how to use the internet or develop the skills to work in a tech role.

“If we want to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy, we need to work with industry, local authorities and the voluntary sector to develop solutions so that no one is left behind.”

The Digital Skills Innovation Fund will open for applications at the end of August 2018, allowing local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and combined authorities to bid for funds to start up initiatives to help people from under-represented groups, such as women, disabled people, those from minority backgrounds and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to take up digital roles.

Grants of up to £500,000 will be given to successful applicants, and the fund aims to encourage LEPs, local government, employers, training providers and the voluntary sector to work together to close the UK’s tech skills gap and share good practice.

As well as bridging localised skills gaps, the fund is intended to help people take up roles such as software developers, cyber security specialists, programmers and data analysts.

There are significant skills gaps in the UK’s technology sector, which is leaving thousands of roles unfilled, and outside of technical roles, many UK adults do not have the digital skills to perform basic everyday tasks.

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Local Enterprise Partnership Network chair and Digital Skills Partnership board member Christine Gaskell said that due to the pace of change in the tech industry, digital skills will soon be required in every part of people’s lives.

“There are huge opportunities for regions to benefit and local enterprise partnerships have a vital role to play in helping people and organisations develop the skills they need to realise their potential,” she said.

“Any initiative with the aim of making more people tech savvy and to bring more women and young people into the sector to create new startups and unearth the next digital superstars has to be welcomed.”

These are not the only initiatives the government has launched in an attempt to increase the nation’s basic digital skills, as well as bridge the digital skills gap.

It recently gave £170,000 funding to the Tech Talent Charter initiative, which aims to get companies to commit to shifting the diversity balance of their workforces.  

The government’s Digital Skills Partnership also aims to give the public and businesses digital skills through partnerships between government, business, charities and voluntary organisations.

Millions of pounds have also been invested in a number of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) hubs around the UK to teach the public about science and technology.

But there is still concern over the amount of diversity in the tech industry and the growing talent gap, which is likely to get worse after Brexit.

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