On the day that it was announced that the UK's economy suffered a shock contraction of 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2010, the UK Government also announced that it has been meeting with leaders of UK manufacturing industry to 'promote manufacturing excellence, challenge perceptions of the industry and dispel the myth that Britain doesn’t make anything any more'.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said that 'there is concern that the outdated image of the [manufacturing] sector is restricting its ability to attract the best talent [and therefore] creating a barrier to growth'.

To help address these challenges Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable have asked UK businesses manufacturing cutting edge products to throw open their doors for a day to students and teachers. This week-long national event would be the first of its kind and 'will offer an exciting insight into engineering and manufacturing'.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "I want our young people to see that British manufacturing offers well-paid and rewarding careers. Not many of them will know that many electrical engineers are almost as well paid as lawyers and solicitors.

"Throwing open the doors of our factories to the engineers of tomorrow will show them the satisfaction of making things is hard to beat."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "I was shocked to hear that a recent survey found 49 per cent of 7 to 11-year-olds think it would be boring to be an engineer. They could not be more wrong.

"That’s why Government and industry agree that we have to improve the image of manufacturing if we are to attract the brightest and best into industry.

"Holding a factory doors open week will help us dispel the myth about engineering jobs, and show they are challenging, exciting and well paid."

Today’s event and responses to the 'Manufacturing Framework' will feed into the 'Advanced Manufacturing' strand of the Government’s Growth Review which will announce policy proposals at Budget 2011.

Automotive industry companies in Britain are among the participants in the initiative.

Joe Greenwell, Chairman, Ford of Britain said: “This year Ford celebrates its 100th year of manufacturing in the UK, and we announced a further GBP1.5bn of UK investments last year. This investment is focused on the development and application in production of low carbon automotive technologies.

“Manufacturing is an important wealth creator and a significant contributor to Britain's economic growth.

“The future for UK manufacturing lies in deploying advanced technologies, in creating high value-added products and in attracting our home-grown talent.

“Ford has a long track record of working closely with schools and colleges, helping to foster the apprentices, technicians and engineers of the future.”

Andrew Reynolds Smith, Divisional Chief Executive, GKN plc said: “The government’s growth agenda is an important building block in accelerating the recovery of the UK economy. Within that agenda, the Manufacturing Summit will play an important part in understanding the barriers to growth as well as providing a better understanding of the importance of investment in key technologies, skills and capital equipment. Importantly, it will also emphasise the huge importance of the economies of Brazil, India and China and their influence on the future direction for UK business.”

Dr Henri Winand, CEO, Intelligent Energy said:

“Intelligent decisions need to be made about low carbon technology and events such as the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Summit 2011 play a crucial role in showcasing low carbon manufacturing excellence in the UK.

"Intelligent Energy has experienced high levels of growth, commercial progress and technical achievement in 2010 as evidenced by its lead role in delivering a fleet of zero emissions Fuel Cell Black Cabs in time for London 2012. As a former university spinout, Intelligent Energy has retained a vision to bring clean power systems to the masses and is proud to kick off 2011 by exhibiting its technology alongside other UK low carbon manufacturers with the same goal."

(just-auto interview with Dr Henri Winand)

In widely reported remarks yesterday, the outgoing director-general of the UK employers' confederation, the Confederation of British Industry, offered stinging criticisms of the coalition Government's economic policies as not being supportive enough to economic growth.

“...it’s [the coalition Government] taken a series of policy initiatives for political reasons, apparently careless of the damage that they might do to business and to job creation,” Sir Richard Lambert said.

Read Sir Richard Lambert's full speech

"This matters a great deal, because public spending cuts and private sector growth are two sides of the same coin.”

Manufacturers who want to contribute to the UK Government's manufacturing review can respond directly to the following mailbox - amgr@bis.gsi.gov.uk

See also: COMMENT: UK Plc needs to sell itself better, starting with UK Gov