She will move from her post of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) chair and will succeed Martin Temple CBE, who has served more than 17 years as director general and then chair of the body. Other members of the board include representatives from Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens, Tata and the Marshall Group.
Hackitt, a former chemical engineer who was due to step down from her HSE post at the end of March, said of her appointment: "My first priority will be to talk to EEF members. It is by tapping into their in-depth experience and understanding of the sector's needs that I will be able to help set the future strategy for the organisation. I am delighted to be taking on this role because I am passionate about manufacturing and engineering and the vital part they play in making UK plc thrive."
She added: "Each corner of Britain has a part to play in building our strength as a manufacturing nation. The whole industry is changing fast and we are at the forefront of a revolution in digital technology. This fourth industrial revolution requires a step-change in the skills we require to bring into business to make us fit for the next few decades."
One issue Hackitt will deal with when she joins the 120-year-old organisation is how the UK's referendum on its continued membership of the European Union, expected in June, will affect EEF members, whose "primary concern is that they remain globally competitive and can operate freely across borders often involving complex supply chains". An EEF survey found that a majority of members believe staying in the EU is good for Britain's economy.
EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said Hackitt is a "true manufacturing champion and her expert judgement and passion for manufacturing will be an inspiration to many". She was made a Dame in the 2016 New Year honours.
Temple will step down as EEF chairman at the end of March. Before joining the manufacturers' organisation, he held senior roles in the UK steel industry and was chairman of the 600 Group - the last surviving British-owned machine tool company. He is chairman of the Design Council, a non-executive director of Sheffield Hospitals NHS Trust, a member of the board of Warwick University and is chair of the advisory board of Warwick Business School. He carried out the first triennial review of the HSE's functions for the government in 2013.
"Martin has been an outstanding ambassador for EEF and for UK manufacturing. Initially as director general and subsequently, as chairman, he has helped steward our organisation through major periods of change," said Scuoler. "Our sector has cause to be extremely grateful for the work he has done over this period, which has helped restore manufacturing's credibility and establish the sector as key to the future economic success of the country."