After graduation and entering the workforce, another aspect of my education began. The education of doing the engineering for real in a real plant. This is where all aspects of the engineering degree are pulled together and combined with the additional lessons in business and working with people across the spectrum of a company.
As I progressed in my career, I began to realize there are numerous nuances to engineering that you cannot learn from a book in a classroom. Some were quite surprising because of their simple but esoteric nature. We can only learn these nuances by doing.
These nuances should be transferred to succeeding generations to prevent "reinventing the wheel" but they are not transferred today for a variety of reasons. If the knowledge is not passed down, younger generations will have to learn by doing rather than learning from a mentor or under the guidance of a mentor. Some of those lessons are painfully hard and can be disastrous for capital equipment and human life.
Many in academia are concerned about the exodus of manufacturing from the US. They understand that "only so much" can be learned in a classroom through books. They can only be learned by doing. Since we no longer manufacture many products here, some fear we will not be able to easily do it again. Once it is gone, the learning curve stops and degenerates thus the reason for academicians' concerns.
To maintain our technological edge, we need to continue manufacturing a host of products in the US. Ideas are not only generated in the halls of academia but also in the world of manufacturing, where you are pushed to increase yield and throughput by reducing or eliminating defects and bottlenecks. If this were untrue, the halls of manufacturing companies would not have any patents to display.
What good is learning how to apply without applying and thereby gleaning even more knowledge? I believe "we also learn by doing" applies to all aspects of life. We need to do more for ourselves and have fewer things done for us. It is good to think and learn.
If we are not moving forward aggressively continually, our rate of forgetting exceeds our rate of learning.