The search for the next Tim Peake is on – as hundreds of young people are being encouraged to take an explosive interest in science at The BigBang@Butlin’s in Bognor Regis next week.

With the numbers of West Sussex students choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) topics at GCSE and A-Level declining, the BigBang fair is a great way for local  businesses and staff from colleges and universities to engage students and help them realise that STEM subjects are far from boring.

The aim of the event is to enthuse the next generation to study and build careers in the STEM sector, meet potential employers and develop the tools and techniques that will drive the economy of the future.

More than 500 students have signed up attend the day long event at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis on Thursday March 8.

With the promise of interactive hands-on activities and a fun informative show delivered by Science Made Simple, those behind it hope it will give businesses the chance to showcase the exciting career opportunities that STEM can unlock.

Caroline Wood, director of Coastal West Sussex Economic Partnership (CWS), which is one of the organisations helping to organise the event said: “The example of Chichester-born astronaut Tim Peake shows young people that the opportunities offered by STEM subjects are endless, even including the option of exploring the universe and other worlds! 

“If we are to raise the economic performance of the coast we must invest in our young people to give them the skills to compete locally and nationally in the world of work.

“The Big Bang is an opportunity to be inspired about science but also to meet many local companies that could be their future employers.”

BigBang forms part of Coastal STEMfest and is delivered by STEM Sussex, the STEM outreach department at the University of Brighton.

The Coastal STEMfest and BigBang are financially supported by the CWS Economic Partnership with contributions received from Adur, Arun, Worthing and Chichester councils.

The event is also supported by West Sussex County Council, Adur and Worthing Business Partnership and the Sussex Learning Network.

More than 25 businesses, colleges and universities will attend the event next week with the aim of inspiring the workforce of the future.

Recent figures show that the number of students taking STEM A levels in West Sussex has declined across all subjects between 2012/13 and 2015/16, particularly those taking maths.

National statistics show there is the same issue with GCSEs while participation rates into Higher Education across coastal West Sussex are poor, with many areas in the bottom quintile nationally.

There is also a gender gap – with only 25% of all STEM graduates being women – while STEM subjects make up just 20% of all apprenticeships.

Despite an increasing number of jobs at risk of automation, STEM and digital businesses are helping to drive the local economy forward. Leaders from across the private, public and education sector want to act now to avoid a skills shortage in future years.

Caroline Wood said:When there is rising concern about the need to achieve higher productivity in a time of rapid technological change, STEM skills are seen to hold a large part of the answer.

“Although Big Bang is an excellent way to inspire young people to study STEM subjects and open their eyes to their future career opportunities, it is only one part of a much larger programme of work that needs to be done if we are to raise the skills level across the coastal area.”

Spaces are still available for young people to attend the event but students or parents would need to speak to their school about registering.