The BBC plans to hand out a million ‘Micro Bit’ coding devices to all children in Year 7 from this autumn, as part of its ‘Make it Digital’ scheme to get young people interested in technology.

Director general Tony Hall said he hopes the initiative will help to help fill a “significant” and “worrying” technology skills shortage. The BBC estimates UK organisations need to hire 1.4 million digital professionals over the next five years, he added.

At the launch event today, Hall unveiled the ‘Micro Bit’, a small programmable device inspired by the 1981 BBC Micro. He said it will help teach children basic coding and programming, acting as a springboard for more advanced products like the Raspberry Pi.

As part of the initiative the BBC, Department for Work and Pensions and Skills Funding Agency have promised to create up to 5,000 digital traineeships for young unemployed people.  50 trainees have started since last week’s announcement, Hall said.

The BBC is working with over 50 partners including Samsung, Google, Microsoft, ARM, Cisco and BT, who have promised to support the scheme and offer training opportunities.

The BBC will also run a season of programmes and activity across BBC Weather, Doctor Who, Radio 1, Eastenders, BBC Two and other channels aimed at promoting ‘digital creativity’, Hall said.

The BBC did not disclose how much money is going into ‘Make it Digital’, but said funding will be allocated “project by project”.

“All BBC programmes will come from our usual budget. For the Micro Bit, the majority of funding will come from our partners. And the traineeships are funded by the DWP,” a spokesman told ComputerworldUK.

Project controller Jessica Cecil said the project went hand-in-hand with BBC founder Lord Reith’s mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ the nation.

“The BBC has a great heritage of teaching people about technology…we’re uniquely well placed to do this as we reach 97 percent of the UK every week,” Hall said.

“We want to turn more children from digital consumers into digital creators. We want to get them coding, programming, and making games,” he added.

Image credit: ©BBC

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