Our Story

Born of the Industrial Revolution


Typing Class (1920)
This typing class (circa 1920) was typical of the courses taught in the early years of the Wisconsin Technical College System. Even then, technology in the form of typewriters, was a critical aspect of the education.

Change was fast and intense at the beginning of the twentieth century. The world was undergoing an industrial revolution that created entirely new industries and upset existing ways of manufacturing products. Gone were the days of cottage industries and small scale production. The new reality of changing industries was especially significant to Wisconsin and the thousands of residents who were a part of the growing manufacturing base in the state. Factories needed skilled and trained workers to match the new demands of manufacturing.

Responding to these demands, in 1911, Wisconsin led the nation in creating the modern technical colleges system by becoming the first state to establish a system of state support and calling it the Vocational, Technical, Adult Education of Wisconsin.

Responding to the Technological Revolution


Students broadcasting from Wisconsin State Fair (1961)
As broadcasting technology revolutionizes the country, the Wisconsin Technical College System responds with relevant programs. This photo shows a broadcast from the Wisconsin State Fair in which the students from the Milwaukee Vocational and Adult School are filming Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (1961).

For every decade since, the Wisconsin Technical College System has anticipated the community challenges and adapted to the changing work needs of businesses and students in Wisconsin. The idea that everyone could be trained to have chance to make a meaningful contribution to Wisconsin and the world became a central ethos of the technical college system as it took shape as a center of learning and skill development for local communities.

Since its founding, the system’s constant goal has been to give each new generation of student the chance to discover their passions, broaden their professional skill set, and achieve their fullest potential.

The kinds of students that are drawn to the technical college system are driven to achieve success regardless of their circumstances. And we believe heroes need mentors. The Wisconsin Technical College System works to do more than meet the current job needs of our community and our students. We assess current trends to develop our students’ skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

Poised for Future Evolution

Once again there are massive changes underfoot in the way work gets accomplished and, just as before, the skill sets people need to get that work done have shifted. The roar of machines and gears has been replaced by the quieter hum of computers and data management systems, but the role of the technical college system remains the same. Give students of all ages the real world smarts they need to achieve their goals and find meaningful work.

Building upon the success of practices like advisory committees, the technical colleges are ever advancing and improving services to business and students alike.

The Wisconsin Technical College System has only been able to accomplish this goal by being efficient and responsive to the reality of our technology economy and the aspirations of our students to achieve.

Today our students work in some of Wisconsin’s most critical and high-tech industries, like health care, wind energy, and nanotechnology. We educate roughly 380,000 students each year--more than twice the number of the University of Wisconsin System. WTCS graduates are everywhere doing the work that keeps our local communities strong. If someone you know requires emergency medical attention, they will encounter three or four WTCS graduates on the way to the hospital before they ever speak with a doctor. Like the EMT, or the police officer, or the intake nurse and the medical technician, WTCS graduates like these occupy critical jobs in every community in Wisconsin.

As the world continues to change, the Wisconsin Technical College System will continue to be there to help our students discover their passion and achieve their potential.