Waukesha County Technical College

Click the image to learn more. A student at Waukesha County Technical College works at a small drafting table in this photograph from 1950.

Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) is a vocational training and general education school headquartered in Pewaukee. It is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System.

WCTC emerged out of the vocational education movement of the 1910s. In 1911, Wisconsin passed pioneering legislation requiring fourteen and fifteen-year-olds to attend school at least part-time (a stipulation extended to sixteen and seventeen-year-olds in 1915) and the establishment of “continuation schools” for working teenagers and adults to attend day or evening occupational training and basic education courses.[1]

Waukesha’s first vocational courses were offered through the city’s public school system in 1916. The Waukesha Vocational School, which would later become WCTC, was organized in 1919, offering courses at the YMCA. As the school strengthened its place in the community, it established a more dedicated space in the basement of the Waukesha Central High School in 1920. O.B. Lindholm was appointed its first full-time director in 1923.[2]

Enrollment steadily increased through the 1920s and 1930s, growing from 443 students in 1923, to 700 students in 1930, and 1,400 by 1938. Outgrowing its original basement space, the school built a larger facility on Maple Avenue (now home to the Waukesha School District offices) in 1930.[3]

As the Waukesha Vocational School matured, it extended its services to meet new needs of the area community. With financial assistance from the Works Progress Administration and War Department, the school proved instrumental in training workers in the technical skills needed by area manufacturers during the Great Depression and the Second World War. High Depression-era unemployment also prompted an expansion of its cultural, home economics, and “hobby” programs. Moreover, the institution offered English as a second language and naturalization courses to Waukesha’s growing population of new immigrants. In the 1950s, the school added a vocational rehabilitation program for handicapped area residents to develop occupational skills, as well as driver’s education courses.[4]

In 1949, the school changed its name to the Lindholm Vocational and Adult School in memorial to the long-serving director, and, in 1957 and 1962, expanded its Maple Street facility to accommodate growing enrollment and new programs.[5] In 1961, the state legislature authorized vocational schools to offer associate degree and vocational diploma programs. The school added one- and two-year programs in business, electronics, drafting, marketing and sales, accounting, mechanical design, real estate, and nursing over the next few years. To better reflect its expanding post-secondary offerings, the school changed its name during the 1960s, first, to the Waukesha Vocational, Technical, and Adult School and, later, to the Waukesha Technical Institute.

In order to expand the reach of vocational education in rural areas, Wisconsin organized a state-wide Vocational, Technical, and Adult Education System in the late 1960s (later the Wisconsin Technical College System).[6] The Waukesha school became part of this system as the Waukesha County Technical Institute (WCTI) in 1967, serving all of Waukesha County and parts of Jefferson, Dodge, and Racine Counties.[7] Enrollment grew dramatically as a result of this redistricting and increased federal funding, rising to 12,147 students by 1971, and 36,500 students by 1982. In order to facilitate its expanding roles, WCTI established “outreach centers” in district high schools in the late 1960s, a basic storefront education facility in a downtown Waukesha (later called the “Learning Place”), and a larger, more modern campus in the Village of Pewaukee in 1972.[8] In 1978, WCTI established the state’s first formal “external high school,” offering general education courses and assessment programs for adults to earn their high school diplomas.[9] The school extended these services to inmates at both the Waukesha County Jail and the Huber Facility during the 1990s.[10]

Changing its name to the Waukesha County Technical College in 1988, the school continued to expand and mold its offerings to meet the changing needs of area employers into the digital age, including computer programming and engineering courses.[11] In 1995, WCTC offered its first online degree programs in business law, financial planning, and real estate.[12] While enrollment had dropped to 21,187 students by 2014, WCTC boasts over 150 areas of study with a ninety-four percent job-placement rate to this day.[13]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Education for a Lifetime: A History of the First 75 Years of Waukesha County Technical College, 1923-1998. (Pewaukee, WI: Waukesha County Technical College, 1998), 2; Frank J. Woerdehoff, “Dr. Charles McCarthy: Planner of the Wisconsin System of Vocational and Adult Education,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 41, no. 4 (Summer 1958): 270-274; Kathleen A. Paris, “Education for Employment: 70 Years of Vocational, Technical, and Adult Education in Wisconsin,” State of Wisconsin Blue Book (1981-1982): 104-119.
  2. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 2-3.
  3. ^ Education for a Lifetime,3-4.
  4. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 4-5.
  5. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 5-6.
  6. ^ Paris, “Education for Employment,” 136-143.
  7. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 10.
  8. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 11.
  9. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 16.
  10. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 16.
  11. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 23-30.
  12. ^ Education for a Lifetime, 30.
  13. ^Facts about WCTC,” Waukesha County Technical College website, accessed August 23, 2016; “About WCTC,” Waukesha County Technical College website, accessed August 23, 2016.

For Further Reading

Education for a Lifetime: A History of the First 75 Years of Waukesha County Technical College, 1923-1998. Pewaukee, WI: Waukesha County Technical College, 1998.

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