History photo collage

Gateway's History

Gateway Technical College laid the cornerstone of career training when Racine Continuation School began classes Nov. 3, 1911 as the first compulsory, publicly-funded school in Wisconsin - and, in doing so, also became the first in America. Although Gateway wasn’t named “Gateway” until 1972, it nevertheless has a history in Southeast Wisconsin that stretches back to the beginning of the 20th Century. From its beginnings in three different counties, Gateway’s story maps the changes and shifts in education, labor, technology and commerce. 

Wisconsin's Legislature led the way in creating technical education schools in 1911, but this educational concept spread quickly to the rest of the United States. Technical education continues to write the future of our country's employers and the careers of its workers. 

From its inception, Gateway has provided students with education and training to pave the way for their careers and their futures. Its tailored training met the needs of the industry of the day – addressing traditional as well as emerging, in-demand career fields. Gateway continues to serve its communities by supplying local industry with trained workers and residents with opportunities to gain solid paying careers.

Gateway looks forward to the next century of meeting the needs of the industries, the communities and the students it serves each year in Kenosha County, Racine County and Walworth County.


Classes begin at Racine Continuation School, marking the first publicly funded technical college in America. The first apprenticeship programs also begin there. A total of 325 students attend the first year and receive training in pattern-making, cabinet-making, molding, cooking, dressmaking and drafting.


Kenosha Continuation School opens, with its first location in Frank School auditorium. Promotional material is printed in English, Polish and Italian and one instructor teaches only Armenian students.


Kenosha Vocational School (a name picked up after a surge of WWI veterans began attending) moves into its own building at 18th Avenue and 62nd Street.


Construction finishes at 800 Center Street for what will become the Racine Vocational School headquarters for the next 42 years. High enrollment at the Kenosha Vocational School forces administrators to use temporary class “portables” at schools and other locations.


During WWII, enrollment spikes and Racine Vocational School operates 24 hours a day to train workers for defense jobs such as pilot training and ground aeronautics courses. In 1949, Kenosha Vocational School breaks ground at 52nd Street and 6th Avenue and becomes the first vocational school to offer one-year practical nursing program.


Gateway offers its first associate degree programs in business education, transforming the vocational school into a post-secondary institution of learning.


Kenosha Vocational School completes construction of its new 190,000-square-foot, 50-acre campus in 1967 and captures the nation’s attention as two-year programs such as Pilot Training, Aviation Mid-Management, Data Processing, Court and Conference Reporting, Fluid Power, Horticulture, Interior Design, Library Technical Assistant and Police Science resulted in a surge of students. In 1968, Walworth County joins the Kenosha Vocational District.


In 1971, the Racine Technical Institute merges with the Kenosha Technical Institute and its Walworth County campus in Elkhorn, first as Kenosha-Racine-Walworth Technical Institute, then as Tri-County Technical Institute. In 1972, Tri-County Technical Institute changes its name to Gateway Technical Institute and moves the Racine Campus to its current location at 1001 S. Main St.


Gateway’s official name changes to Gateway Technical College in 1987, when classes in Instructional Television, Horticulture, Aviation, Accounting, Court and Conference Reporting and Data Processing courses are offered.


Gateway reaches historic full-time equivalent student enrollment in 2011 of 6,000 and ramps up transfer agreements with four-year colleges throughout Wisconsin and in other states in 2007, it opened the nationally recognized Horizon Center for Transportation Technology in Kenosha, a model facility that has since been visited and replicated by colleges across the globe.Two years later, in 2009, it opened the Health and Emergency Responder Occupations (HERO) Center in Burlington, a hub for firefighter, EMS and leadership training. In 2012 and again in 2019, the SC Johnson iMET Center sees a multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation to become the first facility in the region to offer training in high skilled IT and manufacturing careers. The college also renovates the Academic Building on its Kenosha Campus and announces plans to renovate the Lincoln Building on the Racine Campus to house a new Nursing training facility.