5 ways Teen Tech Centers help bridge the gap in STEM

We love tech, and we’re committed to sharing that love with teens who might otherwise not have access.

Best Buy first launched Teen Tech Centers in 2012 to help teens from disinvested communities explore technology. Since then, we’ve opened 35 Teen Tech Centers across the country, with plans to expand to more than 100 in the next five years.

These are places where teens can develop critical skills through hands-on activities that explore their interests in programming, filmmaking, music production and design. And each location works to bridge the digital divide by giving youth access to tech education opportunities, relationships that help to build confidence and a foundation for school and career success. 

“Our goal is to help youth across the country discover what is possible and gain the tools needed to be successful in their futures, whatever they choose to do,” said Andrea Wood, Best Buy’s vice president of social impact. “We want every young person to have access to the technology, training and mentorship they need to pursue their dreams.”

Here are five ways Best Buy Teen Tech Centers are helping us do that.

They give teens opportunities for tech exploration and inspiration

We firmly believe that for youth to be successful, they need to have access to the technology they will encounter in the future workplace. We furnish all our centers with state-of-the-art tech, so youth are able to become familiar with the equipment they might use in their future careers. 

That technology includes high-end computers, DSLR cameras, 3-D printers, virtual reality headsets and graphic drawing tablets, along with graphic design and editing software.

They provide guidance from adult mentors

It’s important for teens to have positive role models, and each center has a coordinator who builds relationships with the youth.

Aaron McKinnon, the coordinator at the Best Buy Teen Tech Center in Pittsburgh, embodies what these relationships look like. He has worked at the nonprofit that houses the center for 16 years. He’s watched kids grow up — and he’s helped them do it.

“My job is bigger than introducing teens to the latest gadgets and software. I’m making those relationships real and tangible,” Aaron said. “I help young people realize their potential and channel their talent, energy and ideas into brighter futures.”

They pull in resources from our vendor partners

This is a big mission, and we know we can’t do it alone. That’s why we’re working closely with our vendor partners across the country to empower youth with the technology and tools they need to thrive now and in the future.  

We have teamed with companies like Adobe, Bose and Microsoft to give teens access to tech during the pandemic. For example, when centers temporarily closed, Adobe provided free software licenses that youth could use at home on their own devices.

They are community centered

We recognize that there are nonprofits across the country that have the same goals we do — to provide youth with a safe place where they can build deep connections.

That’s why we partner with The Clubhouse Network (TCN) to identify organizations to be our partners in establishing and running each center. Our partnership with TCN connects members to a global community of more than 100 clubhouses in 20 countries.

Our Teen Tech Centers are then built within these existing nonprofit centers, making it easily accessible for teens to visit. 

They provide real-world career experience

Getting real, on-the-job, experiences are a major component of our Teen Tech Centers, and this is done through our Career Pathways workforce readiness program.

This initiative offers teens a bridge to success through mentoring, career readiness preparation and internships. It enables students to learn soft skills over the school year, including how to interview, how to dress, and networking.

It’s a deeper investment we are making in these teens by not only preparing them for jobs, but by helping them gain real-world job experience and gain expertise in careers that are in high demand within their own communities. Past internship opportunities for students have included working at our corporate campus and organizing a community block party.

The program currently serves more than 300 teens across 16 Teen Tech Centers, with plans to expand the program to serve the entire TTC network in the coming years.

Click here for more information about Best Buy Teen Tech Centers.