UK manufacturers are being asked to throw open their doors and show young people factories and design shops are as exciting as banking, making movies and law, business secretary Vince Cable said on Tuesday.
Cable said manufacturing in the UK was near a 16-year high, but was in danger of losing momentum because of a lack of talented, skilled new blood.
Cable and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg called on UK manufacturers to hold a week long "open house" and invite students and pupils to see how exciting engineering and manufacturing can be.
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."
Cable said he was shocked to learn that almost half of 7-11 year olds thought it would be boring to be an engineer. "Holding a factory doors-open week will help us dispel that myth about engineering jobs, and show they are challenging, exciting and well-paid," he said.
Skills minister John Hayes announced a £1.98m three-year grant to set up a national skills academy for composites and biotechnology. Employers will match government funding for the academy, he said.
Late last year the government announced plans to spend £200m on six advanced technology centres to develop information technology and telecommunications products, among others.
The UK had world-leading expertise in Formula 1 motor racing, aerospace, defence and folding bicycles, said Brompton Bikes CEO Will Butler-Adams. Altogether, manufacturing contributed 18% of Britain's GDP, he said.