The new £1 million Digital Skills Innovation Fund is available for initiatives that will specifically help underrepresented groups to acquire new digital skills and succeed in technology sector roles such as data analysts, programmers, cyber security specialists, software developers and marketeers. It also aims to encourage collaborative working between Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), local government, voluntary sector, youth organisations, charities, employers and training providers to address local skills challenges and share good practice.
The fund is now open for bids from LEPs and Combined Authorities, and bids need to be received by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) by October 28, 2018. Grants from between £200,000 - £500,000 will be available.
A recent Diversity Report found that women were only 17% of the UK technology sector workforce and disable workers made up 8% of the sector. These are both lower than the ratios in the general workforce where, respectively, inclusion is at 47% and 12%. This fund will help to improve diversity in the tech sector by boosting the digital skills of women, disabled people, people from minority backgrounds or those living in lower socioeconomic areas. Guidance and the application template is available on the Digital Skills Partnership GOV.UK page.
The £400,000 Digital Inclusion Fund is also being launched alongside the Digital Skills Innovation Fund. The Digital Inclusion Fund aims to support initiatives and projects that aid the elderly and disabled in accessing the internet. Applications are open from 10 September – 1 October, 2018.
This support is needed as 2018 data on internet users in the UK shows that 20% of disabled adults and almost half of adults aged 75 and over have never used the internet. The Digital Inclusion Fund will help provide these adults with basic internet skills such as booking GP appointments online and enough digital literacy to utilise search engines and use apps to communicate with family and friends.