The Springfield Area Vocational Center was one of seven charter centers in the State of Illinois. It became operational during the 1966-67 school years with enrollments from five participating school districts of 192 students in seven courses. The original facility had once been utilized as an automobile dealership and was remodeled to meet the educational needs of the Center.
By the third year of operation, the Center had increased enrollments to over 300 and had quickly outgrown its facilities. Additionally, the need to expand course offerings due to student interest and occupational employment opportunities had become evident.
In 1969 the Center was relocated into the old Feitshans High School building, which had undergone extensive remodeling to offer programs in sixteen occupational areas. The Center also incorporated the Adult Licensed Practical Nursing program into its administrative operation. By the beginning of the 1971-72 school year, the center enrollment was in excess of 700 secondary students from sixteen participating districts and over 70 students in the Adult L.P.N. program and it again became evident that expansion of the Center was necessary.
Momentum for the idea of a new and greatly improved Center that would provide broad vocational program opportunities to large numbers of high school students and could also serve the career education needs of the geographic area was started. In 1972 a planning office was established, and a joint agreement for the planning efforts among fourteen school districts was drawn, and an Administrative Executive Council was established as the decision making group. In early 1973 a CAVC Information Committee was organized by members of established citizen advisory committees from the Springfield Center to develop plans for comprehensively informing citizens from 14 participating districts of the rationale for a new center. Through the efforts of these groups, on October 20, 1973, a bond referendum was successfully passed in all participating communities which allowed for the local 40% monies needed to proceed with the planning and construction of the Capital Area Vocational Center.
During the next two years, countless numbers of citizens and groups worked towards the careful planning of a Center that would provide excellent educational opportunities for individuals in over 30 occupational preparation areas. The firms of Graham, O'Shea and Wisnosky and Louis R. Saur and Associates were hired as joint venture architects to design and supervise the construction of the facilities.
The State of Illinois Capitol Development Board provided 60% funding for the project and oversaw the facility planning and construction phases. Citizen Advisory Committees worked diligently with the Springfield Center staff, planning staff and consultants from the Division of Adult Vocational and Technical Education to assure that programs to be offered were viable, met the needs and interests of students, would provide trained workers for area business needs, and were in areas of good projected employment opportunities.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on August 5, 1975 and the Center officially opened its doors for instructional purposes in September 1977. Initial enrollment for the 1977-78 school years included 1200 secondary students in 26 occupational programs and 125 students in the Adult Licensed Practical Nursing Program.
The Capital Area Vocational Center is located in Sangamon County just south of Springfield on Toronto Road off interstate 55. The building is on a 35-acre site and initially featured 196,000 square feet of space in 23 labs areas, 30 classroom areas and 3 resource learning centers. The entire project totaled $8.2 million for building, land, equipment, and architect engineer fees. The Center served students from 14 school districts in Sangamon, Christian, Macoupin, Morgan and Menard Counties. These 14 member school districts included: Athens, Auburn, Ball-Chatham, Divernon, Edinburg, Girard, New Berlin, Pleasant Plains, Riverton, Rochester, Springfield, Tri City, Virden and Waverly.
Throughout the years other districts have sent students to the Center. They include Ashland, Franklin, Morrisionville, Pawnee, Kincaid South Fork, Staunton, Taylorville and Williamsville.
Because of extensive articulation of programming with Lincoln Land Community College, the addition of a 9 - 12 Agricultural Science Academy in the 1996-97 school year as well as a shift in focus in offering programs to a wider student population it was determined to change the name of the Center to Capital Area Career Center. The name change became effective in October of 1997.
For the FY99 school year the Center opened with 800 students enrolled in 21 program areas. These programs included: Agricultural & Industrial Mechanics, Agricultural Science Academy, Auto Body, Automotive Technology/Servicing, Building Maintenance, Building Trades, Communications & Media, Computer Repair & Networking, Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, Drafting, Early Childhood Care & Education, Electrical, Graphic Arts, Health Occupations, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning, Interrelated Cooperative Education, Legal Secretary, Model Office, Power Equipment Technology, and Welding.
In April of 2002, the Capital Area School of Surgical Technology opened with fourteen adult students. The school was formed through a cooperative agreement with St. John's Hospital and Capital Area Career Center because of a tremendous need for technicians in the Springfield area. The program was an intensive seven month program leading to AST certification.
In the spring of 2002, CACC student radio WQNA (88.3 FM) expanded its listening area to all of Sangamon County. The station provided twenty-four hours a day eclectic mix of music. High school students ran the programs during the school day and community volunteers ran the programming after school hours.
In 2002, six photovoltaic solar panels were installed by students on the south side of the building to capture the sun's energy and provide electrical power. Programs that were upgraded included Business Technology Specialist: Legal/Medical, Collision Repair Technology, CISCO Networking Academy, and an expansion of the Cosmetology Program. Students could earn both high school and college credit for many of CACC's programs. Expanded opportunities for student internships were available in the spring of 2003.
In the mid 2000’s through 2014, CACC enrollment dropped to its lowest levels due to home school budget cuts and federal legislation. This led to several program offerings being dropped. Some programs were eliminated, while others were cut to half-time.
Since 2014, CACC enrollment has increased substantially. Currently, CACC serves over 850 students from 21 school districts in the Springfield, IL area, as well as over 200 adult students in the LPN, CNA and Skilled Trades programs. In 2020, CACC opened the Capital Area School of Cosmetology and is expanding the Cosmetology program to include adult students. During the past 2 years, the following programs have been added: HVAC/Electrical Systems Technology, IT Operations and Programming, Medical Assistant, Horticulture Production and Management, and Electronics and Engineering.
At the present time, CACC offers 22 different programs. Enrollment continues to increase as CACC provides more opportunities for students to earn industry credentials, dual credit and entry-level career skills.