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Beyond The Surface: From Apprentice To Employee

He became a student of the Painting and Decorating program in 1969, back when The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) was known as Nassau Technical Centre. He went on to become an apprentice and today is an employee, who says he has had more highs than lows.

“This is the only job I know. I grew up here,” said David Barry who retired as an employee of the Ministry of Education in 2015 after 44 years of service.

BTVI, which was once fully under the Ministry of Education, became semi-autonomous in 2013 and when Mr. Barry retired two years later, the institution retained his service. Hence, he has worked at the Old Trail Road campus for the past 46 years.

“What really kept me here are the students. I like to instill in them that painting and decorating is a profession. I like to awaken minds to the different skills I have,” said Mr. Barry.

“It’s been good. It’s been enjoyable…I’ve seen this place go through name changes. I have seen this place start as a simple training centre to today being an institute on par with institutes in the US and Canada because of the curriculum. I look at BTVI as a community college,” said the long-time employee.

Questioned as to why the Painting and Decorating program may not be as popular as other programs, Mr. Barry hastily said people don’t see painting as a profession.

“People believe anyone can paint. However, it’s beyond the surface. Bahamians tend to paint for beautification. Painting is about preservation. You can look around us; some buildings are deteriorating because of the lack of proper preparation for painting,” said the expert painter.

Mr. Barry said painters must prep against the elements.

“Surfaces require specific preparation and materials. There is even colour theory. Some colours are not applicable to certain rooms or areas. For example, darker colours make rooms seem smaller. Professional painters are colour advisors,” said Mr. Barry who recalled doing interior painting at the house of the late Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Sir Lynden Pindling.

BTVI’s Painting and Decorating program includes drywall finishing, hanging wall coverings, decorative finishings and refinishing furniture.

Mr. Barry, who grew up on Harbour Island, came to New Providence to study a trade, but admittedly, was unsure what he wanted to do. He was subsequently placed in the Painting and Decorating program.

With eight classmates and under the tutelage of Englishman, John Hutcheson, Mr. Barry was in the program for one year before being chosen by the institution’s administration to become an apprentice. He was the top choice of the two students who passed the London base City and Guilds certificate in painting and decorating. It was a nod of confidence for the young David.

The apprenticeship lasted another year before Mr. Barry became an employee of the Ministry of Education in 1971, spending over four decades as a public servant.

During this time, Mr. Barry was afforded opportunities for further training.

“This became C. R. Walker Technical College and it merged with the College of The Bahamas (COB) at one point. They wanted me to teach Auto Repair, so they sent me to study a diploma in the field at Alpena Community College in Michigan. That’s how I got another skill under my belt,” he stated.

Reminiscing on some of the highlights of his tenure primarily teaching painting and decorating, Mr. Barry said heading the program and eventually teaching on the family islands were gratifying.

“About four years ago, BTVI’s construction trades’ instructors conducted courses on the weekends on several islands including Andros, Abaco, Harbour Island and Eleuthera. From carpentry to drywall and plumbing to tiling, to see the faces of the islanders who were so pleased that we would come there and teach them these trades was a good moment,” he stated.

“Another highlight is the fact that there is a graduate of mine named Patreka Ferguson, who is now supervisor of the painting section of the Ministry of Works. Now, her daughter is a student in the same program,” said a beaming Mr. Barry.

Over the years, Mr. Barry has also taught painting and decorating to at-risk youth, including residents of the Simpson Penn School for Boys and the boys of Program Sure.

“Teaching young men is my passion. They want a father figure,” he said.

Mr. Barry is so versatile that he is presently teaching 17 boys from Anatol Rodgers High School a Trade Career Path course. For the 15-week dual enrollment program, they are introduced to the fundamentals of several construction trades including: Electrical Installation, Plumbing, Masonry, Carpentry, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), Welding, and Painting and Decorating.

Shanando Moss, who wants to become an Electrical Engineer, spoke highly of Mr. Barry.

“The class atmosphere is easy to learn in. Mr. Barry, makes a difference. Currently, we are learning about electricity. I am using this as an opportunity and I intend to come back in September for a year before hopefully going off to school,” said the teenager.

Mr. Barry is particularly pleased with the students of Anatol Rodgers High School.

“They really want to pursue the construction trades. I am finding it out through their research and enthusiasm. It’s a pleasure working with them. I am giving back and I think this group appreciates it,” said Mr. Barry.

By Hadassah Hall
The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI)

David Barry assists a BTVI student during class
Photo by Shantique Longley

A young David Barry during his training at the then Nassau Technical Centre

David Barry

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