Convergence of the Past, Present and Future

In a couple of weeks, we will be holding Centennial celebrations at all of our campuses and regional centers and as I prepare for these community visits, I’m struck by the similarities between past and present. In 1911, Wisconsin was the first state to create a system of occupational training. In those days, it was common for young teens to leave school to work on family farms and in local factories. Even then, a changing economy forced young people to return to school to learn more skills needed in the workplace. Here are a few photos of wood lathe operators, young men forging chain links, and young women learning how to cook, sew and bake:

Today, a rapidly changing economy and the demand for skilled workers with hands-on training have created the same need—except horseshoe making has been replaced by diesel technology. The photos from 100 years ago show the latest in technology for the early 1900s: wooden drafting boards, treadle sewing machines and manufacturing environments far from today’s automated and efficient manufacturing operations.

Through the decades, College programs and facilities kept pace with jobs, employment needs and changing technology—sound familiar? When the current District was formed in the late 1960s and the Appleton Campus was built in the early 1970s, who could imagine that one day we would use robotic “patients” that realistically simulate human response to medical treatment in our health care programs? Likely there were few who forecasted the growing need for technical training for fire, police and emergency workers (nor the complex nature of today’s criminal behavior or emergencies). Who imagined then that trucking would move our products to market at the volume we see today, causing the demand for drivers and technicians to skyrocket?

When I talk about the past century, it will be with an eye to the future. The facilities plan we have proposed provides for the technology and training that will prepare this region’s workers into the early years of our next century of service. The plan calls for significant expansion in public safety training facilities, healthcare training, transportation, agriculture, student success services, and positions the College to respond as needed with future expansions to facilities and programs in Oshkosh and Chilton. I ask you to think about advances made in the last 100 years as you learn more about our future plans at

As I look to the future, I wonder how “antique” the technology we are working with today will look in 2112. Which occupations will be seen only in history books and what inventions undreamed today will power our economy then? It’s taken us 100 years to get this far—let’s start the next 100 with a solid foundation.

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