Schools across West Sussex agree that students taking an interest in STEM subjects (which includes sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics) is important, as recent findings by STEM Sussex and Coastal West Sussex report.

STEM Sussex, the outreach support department at the University of Brighton, carried out a mapping exercise covering their own activities, as well as those provided by the University of Chichester and the University of Brighton. 

These events were a combination of generic STEM events (open to audiences interested in the variety of aspects covered by STEM) and also more specific ones, focused on key areas, with the aims of engaging our region’s young students to be inspired and open their eyes to the opportunities that a career in science-related industries can offer them.

Just one event that hundreds of local students attended was BigBang@Butlins. This interactive event has been running for three years and aims to get pupils excited about science, in the hope that they’ll continue studying these subjects and consider them as a career possibility.

Promisingly, the ‘Co-ordinating STEM activity in Sussex’ report found, that over three quarters of schools surveyed participated in the STEM ambassadors programme. This programme brings together volunteers from a wide range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics related jobs and disciplines with school pupils to help bring STEM subjects to life and demonstrate the value of them in life and careers.

This report also noted that two thirds of schools had at least one STEM club, where young people could regularly get together and have fun within the sciences. 

While this is encouraging news, the Coastal West Sussex Partnership hopes that a stronger and more sustainable programme of STEM activities that reach young people and their parents, which include local BigBang events, will grow and get more students involved.

“It’s vital, in order for local people to be prepared for the increasingly highly-skilled jobs and raise the economic performance of the coast, that our young people are engaged with STEM subjects and aspire to work within the broad range of careers available,” Caroline Wood, director of the Coastal West Sussex Partnership explains.

“That’s why it’s fantastic to see our local schools get involved with STEM events, be part of the STEM ambassadors programme and run STEM clubs, as we know that young people who do not have science related aspirations at 10 are unlikely to develop them by 14 – which means we need to be engaging with our young people about STEM as early as possible.”

“Of course, despite the focus there’s always room for improvement and as only 18% of boys and just 12% of girls in our region aspire for a career within sciences, it’s important that work continues in this area. Otherwise, this could leave a wide skills gap, needed to be bridged for our area’s economy to cope with demand and prosper.”