A BusinessNZ report says an image problem is contributing to skill and capital shortages in manufacturing.
It says the common picture is of low-skilled workers in a dying sector, whereas high-growth businesses are innovative and talent-driven.
The report, put together for BusinessNZ by a research firm, Castalia, says New Zealanders do not typically think of themselves as living in a manufacturing economy and the misperception may lead them into training, business and career choices, which undermine the potential for growth.
Catherine Beard, executive director of ManufacturingNZ - a BusinessNZ subsidiary - says modern manufacturing has sophisticated technology and machinery and well-paid, high skilled jobs.
She says the firms the researchers spoke to want more government support. "They would certainly appreciate any increasing investment in helping them invest in research and development, and I think also government is a really big spender so we have to make sure that our local business are getting fair access to some of those bigger projects."
The survey of 15 high-growth manufacturing firms suggests the Government should develop a manufacturing policy. It also says skill shortages are much more significant than the effects of costs or exchange rates.
The chief executive of commercial air-conditioning company Temperzone says the manufacturing sector's low profile does not attract people into the industry. Les Kendall says young people need to be educated about the reality of hi-tech product design and manufacturing so that they choose those careers.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says schools are putting more emphasis on technology and science subjects.
On Tuesday, he announced that another 19 companies will get research and development growth grants to help manufacturing.