By Kevin Smith
It’s full steam ahead for science jobs in Bognor Regis, councillors have been told.
A new economic development strategy for Arun District Council identifies the important subject as one way the town’s economic prospects can be boosted.
The University of Chichester’s digital technology park in the town, with its unrivalled facilities in the region, and the creative hub being created in the town’s railway station will boost the profile of STEAM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in the area in the next few years.
The 25-page strategy was backed by the council’s cabinet members on Monday after a presentation by its author, group head of economy Denise Vine.
She said: “The students who will be emerging from the university as time goes on, if they set up on their own, the creative and digital hub at the station will be the next step for them to enable them to work as a collective in one place.
“The next step will be providing accommodation for them as their businesses grow.
“We can create conditions to make it easier for them. Bognor Regis, in particular, has a few really good opportunities there.”
Cllr Matt Stanley (LD, Marine) said: “There is definitely a clear direction we are set on around the economy and the need to embed digital technology within that. We do have a lot of opportunities with STEM, especially in Bognor Regis, and I do think there are a lot of good opportunities in there which, hopefully, will create jobs.”
Cllr Martin Lury (LD, Bersted) said: “One of the key challenges for this authority is those little pockets of deprivation we have around the county.
“It’s extraordinary that you can walk a mile between Aldwick and Bognor Regis and that difference means people live 10 years longer.
“We have a low wage economy. There is a lot of seasonal work. We have been talking about this since the nineties and we don’t seem to have made a lot of progress.”
Cllr Hugh Coster (I, Middleton) said: “This is a very thought-provoking report. There is a lot in here for us to think about as councillors.”
The strategy’s policy of seeking to close the skills gap and overcoming the barriers to work to boost wage rates was very important, he said.
The strategy is based around three key themes – future places, a business success story and prosperous and happy communities. Work on an action plan to progress the delivery of policies to help to achieve them was also backed by cabinet members.
The council’s most recent economic development strategy was compiled in 2009 and the latest document also features an updated economic profile.