The 21-year-old Vista resident grew up helping his father on landscaping jobs. Today, with skills learned at Palomar College, he is pursuing a passion for working with his hands.

SAN MARCOS — Misael Venancio came to Palomar College with a vague plan to study computer science. Less than three years later, he had not only learned a trade at Palomar, but had landed his first job as a woodworker with a local company.

“I like computers, but I’ve always been an on-my-feet kind of guy,” Venancio said during a recent interview on campus, wearing his shop apron and smelling like freshly sawn lumber.

Venancio’s story reflects the experience of thousands of students who are learning employable trade skills in one of Palomar’s many Career Education programs. Woodworking—formally known as “Cabinet & Furniture Technology” (CFT)—has given the 21-year-old Vista resident a new passion, as well as a fledgling career.

Palomar’s award-winning CFT program has received national and local recognition, including frequent honors for student and faculty work at the San Diego County Fair woodworking exhibit every summer. For Venancio, the woodshop at Palomar has been a refuge and a source of inspiration.

“This program saved me, in a way. I was just so directionless,” he recalled. “I spent at least a year developing skills and trying to get my own style down. It’s extremely rewarding in every sense of the word. These are skills you develop yourself; nobody can take them from you.”