Do you need a polymer education?
Polymer technologists today can access on the internet a massive amount of technical information on plastics and their related processes. So is there any need to enrol in formal courses of study at colleges and universities?
Not that long ago, the only method for a polymer scientist or engineer to acquire the necessary knowledge and cognitive skills was to undertake a structured programme of study at a college or university. A feature of these courses was a steady build up of basic science and engineering to cope with the understanding and application of more specific polymer knowledge later in the course. Some students failed to see the relevance of the underpinning until the latter stages. More likely, when they became practising technologists they realised there is no ultimate gain without the pain.
In my opinion, if the knowledge is not underpinned with the concepts and principles of a fundamental understanding of polymeric materials and their behaviour during processing and service, the cracks begin to show when it comes to troubleshooting and innovation.
I can see the relevance of competence based assessments in professional development. However, I believe modern apprenticeship schemes have become too narrow. The pendulum has swung too far from a real understanding of polymers and a breadth of knowledge. This constrains the potential to innovate and solve processing problems.