IT was a big day for everyone who lives in or around Chichester.

A special event was held at Chichester Festival Theatre to see one of their own honoured with the Freedom of the City.

The humble man at the centre of attention was Major Tim Peake, the first British European Space Agency astronaut who completed a six month stint on the International Space Station in 2016.

But the story of Major Peake is a rare one for young people growing up in the county.

Recent figures show that the numbers of West Sussex students choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) topics at GCSE and A-Level is declining.

It’s the same with higher education too with local participation rates across coastal West Sussex (Chichester, Arun, Worthing and Adur) poor.

In contrast, the work that we at the Coastal West Sussex Economic Partnership do in working with local authorities and businesses, shows that it is precisely in the STEM industries where West Sussex is creating growth.

Throw in the additional dilemma of companies becoming more reliant on robots – experts believe up to one in five jobs will be at risk of automation by 2030 – so you can see why there is a need to act now.

That’s why along with our many partners including STEM Sussex, we are holding the third BigBang@Butlin’s Bognor Regis on Thursday. Who knows, perhaps we may even unearth a Tim Peake or three of the future.

Caroline Wood, director of Coastal West Sussex Partnership