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1910's - Birth of a System
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1910s: World War I

Charles McCarthyThe convergence of several factors may have made vocational schools come to fruition: the progressive political movement, changing methods of manufacturing, and the vision of Charles McCarthy, considered to be the father of Wisconsin vocational education.

In 1911 the first legislation was passed to form continuing education schools, the predecessors to today’s technical colleges. The law created the country’s first comprehensive statewide continuation school system. The law required all communities with a population of 5,000 or more to establish a continuing education school. That included Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Menomonie. Smaller communities also could opt to create one.


Wisconsin passes legislation to create the country’s first continuation schools, now the Wisconsin Technical College System. The first apprenticeship program is also created.
Classes begin in Eau Claire’s First Ward Public School, Chippewa Falls’ old high school, and Menomonie’s high school.
Henry Ford creates assembly line production, initiating a need for production workers.
Wisconsin’s continuation schools enroll more than 12,000 students; that number doubles by 1914.
World War I begins.
William W. Dixon becomes Director of Eau Claire’s Board of Industrial Education.
Milton Towner becomes Director of Eau Claire’s Board of Industrial Education.
Separate vocational education schools open in Eau Claire for boys and girls: boys in the Eighth Ward Public School building, 500 N. Barstow Street; girls in the First Ward Public School building, North Dewey and Wisconsin streets.
The U.S. enters World War I. Wisconsin’s vocational schools begin training for jobs to support the war, such as telegraphers, truck drivers, bankers, typists, and horseshoers. Women are trained in gas engines and auto repair.
Charles Beardsley becomes Director of Eau Claire’s Board of Industrial Education.
Congress passes the Smith Hughes Act, providing the first federal funding for vocational education.