Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) is very excited to welcome “home” our new high school Building Trades and Electricity instructor, CATEC alum Tommy Farrer. In 1981, as a Charlottesville High School student, Farrer graduated from CATEC’s two-year Electricity program. He says he was inspired to take classes at CATEC as a high school student because he grew up around family members who worked as electricians.
He fondly remembers his CATEC Electricity instructor, Robert Barrett, as a positive influence on him. He says, “Mr. Barrett not only taught me how to become an electrician, he taught me how to be a good person. Yes, we covered the class materials, however, he prided himself on teaching students in his class how to act has human beings: respectful, polite, courteous, thankful, and professional.” Farrer says Barrett’s goal “was to be a role model and develop his students as honest, hardworking, and able to accept responsibility for our actions.”
Farrer made connections in the community, thanks to Barrett. Upon graduation he started working for the University of Virginia (UVA) as an electrician helper. It was at UVA that Farrer was promoted to an HVAC apprentice position. Becoming an apprentice required a four-year commitment to continue his education and training, which took place on the jobsite and at CATEC. CATEC apprentices work with their employer during the workday and attend CATEC classes in the evening through its Adult Education and Apprenticeship Program for four years.
Farrer says initially working full time and attending classes was challenging. But, he says he developed his own time management system, which allowed him time during the week to concentrate on his studies and still be able to spend time with his family. Of this four-year commitment, he says, “It was a great experience and an awesome program, which also helped pave the way for my career.”
By earning his apprenticeship certification, it afforded Farrer the opportunity for a promotion to an HVAC mechanic position at UVA. Additionally, the promotion provided more stability, improved working hours, enriching experiences, better pay, a direct career path, and higher respect from his peers. Farrer’s longest continuous career was with UVA’s Facilities Management division, working there for 22 years.
Farrer first became an instructor in CATEC’s Adult Education and Apprenticeship Program. He decided to move into teaching because he wanted to use his education, skills, talents, and experiences to teach younger generations who want to learn how to be successful. Farrer’s interest was piqued when he learned the high school Building Trades and Electricity teaching position was open. He says, “I’ve been very fortunate to have a great career, and I want to teach and develop others to be role models in society like Mr. Barrett taught me to be.”
Remembering back to Mr. Barrett’s class in 1980, he says he wants to mirror his legacy and training to develop quality and skilled tradesman and electricians because this is a must for the industry to survive and continue to grow. He says, “This was a dream come true for me. Looking back 40 years ago, I was a student at CATEC learning exactly what I’m teach now. What better way for students to become motivated than to have a teacher who started here at CATEC and fulfilled a success career path and can share his passion and love for trades.” Farrer will be teaching Building Trades and Electricity classes while continuing to instruct for our Adult Education and Apprenticeship Programs in the evening.