In the late 1950s, the North Carolina General Assembly approved funding for a new concept in higher education: industrial education centers that would train adults in the vocational and technical skills needed by the region's emerging industries.
The Wake County Industrial Education Center was chartered in 1958, and officials began searching for a permanent site for the institution. While they looked, they started offering a few classes – blueprint reading, power sewing and technical secretary – at community sites. They also launched a licensed practical nursing program at Memorial Hospital – now WakeMed – in Raleigh.
It wasn't long before officials found land south of Raleigh as a home for this new institution, with a new name that honored W.W. "Bill" Holding, a county commissioner and original steering committee member. The W.W. Holding Industrial Education Center opened on October 7, 1963, with 34 full-time students in Automobile Mechanics, Radio and TV Repair, Electrical Installation and Maintenance and Drafting. An additional 270 students took classes at community sites and were enrolled in the nursing program.
Today, Wake Tech has expanded to six campuses, and construction is underway on a seventh. The college also operates two centers and dozens of community sites throughout Wake County. Enrollment has grown to more than 70,000 students a year.
Almost 60 years after opening its doors, Wake Tech is still leading the way, preparing students for successful careers, training a highly-skilled workforce and serving as a major economic development force in the region.