Business leaders are calling on the next Government to set “lofty ambitions” to help manufacturers invest and grow.
The manufacturers’ organisation EEF also called for an end to “negative and introspective” political debate ahead of the general election.
The group launched its business manifesto at its national conference in London, urging the Government to “punch its weight” in a reformed European Union.
The EEF outlined four ambitions, including moves to make workers more flexible and productive, improving infrastructure, reducing the cost of doing business, and better support for firms.
Employers should be given control of apprenticeship funding, while a new authority for infrastructure should be established, said the group.
Chief executive Terry Scuoler said: “While the last five years have been about recovery, the next five must be about delivering a better balanced economy. Some important groundwork has been laid and it is vital the next government builds on what has worked to date.
“Achieving a true rebalancing of the economy, however, was never going to be easy. It will involve tough choices and will not happen over the lifetime of a single parliament.
“It is vital therefore the next government recognises this and sets lofty ambitions to provide the long term certainty that is necessary for manufacturing businesses to invest, recruit and grow in the UK.”
EEF chairman Martin Temple will tell the EEF’s annual dinner later that the UK should remain in the EU whilst urging the next government to work for reform.
“Whatever the political rhetoric, one certainty is the need to reduce the deficit which will involve tough choices. Whoever assumes power will have to prioritise and limit public spending.
“As a nation we do not exist within our own shores but must survive and thrive in a global market through the development of new technology.
“That’s why we need to look again at the drivers of productivity - investment in plant and equipment, in people, in infrastructure, in innovation and continuously improving the tax regime to support business evolution. These are the foundations for long term growth and our future success as a global, trading nation.
“What we want is a debate on the positive action needed to create the growth and prosperity we need by encouraging and reassuring business to invest and employ more people.”
He will also call for the benefits of migration to be argued, adding: “Migration has enhanced our nation culturally and economically. We need skilled workers from around the world, at the same time as training our own UK workforce.
“But what feels like a race to the bottom on immigration worries me. The mood music is that we don’t like the rest of the world. That if you’re not like us or, are different in some way, then you’re not welcome.
“This is dangerous ground. We need to respond by countering these arguments with a positive view of the benefits of migration, whilst maintaining a balance where there are genuine concerns.”