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Best Buy’s Career Pathways program propels teens to tomorrow’s careers — today

In New Orleans — a city steeped in music and the birthplace of jazz — a Best Buy Teen Tech Center is honoring the town’s rich musical tradition by helping up-and-coming artists shine. How? By giving them the tools to turn passion into profession.

Each week, Raymie Wolfe meets with a group of local teens and helps them take a deep dive into electronic music production, video creation and audio engineering. By following a curriculum developed through a partnership with the GRAMMY MUSEUM, the teens are able to earn industry-level certifications in audio production, as well as become proficient in using industry-standard tools and recording equipment.

Raymie leads the Teen Tech Center’s Career Pathways program, which provides career-readiness and hard-skills training to teens interested in pursuing careers in STEM or the creative economy. The yearlong, curriculum-based program helps teens strengthen their skills in a specific career focus area. And by the time they complete the program, participants are equipped with plans for post-secondary education or their careers.

“It’s important to remember that these are teenagers we’re talking about,” Raymie said. “There’s so much going on at home and economically and at school, so to have a safe space where they’re encouraged to look forward and focus on themselves is an incredible gift.”

Students who enroll in the Career Pathways program spend the first nine months at the Teen Tech Center learning skills in areas like cyber security, digital arts, computer repair, retail skills, entrepreneurship and project management. They also spend time working on soft skills, such as resume writing and business communication. Then, many move on to paid summer internships in local businesses or, in some markets, in Best Buy stores.

“It’s not just elevating the computers and the software and the tech, but also making a vision and a dream come to life.”

Raymie Wolfe, Best Buy Teen Tech Center coordinator

Career Pathways currently serves about 250 teens across 17 of Best Buy’s Teen Tech Center locations. This number will grow in the coming years as Best Buy rolls out the program more broadly. Best Buy is more than halfway to its goal of opening or identifying 60 Teen Tech Center locations by the end of this year.

Most jobs already require the use of technology, and employers are already struggling to fill STEM-related jobs. By creating opportunities for young people to access the training and tools needed for STEM careers, we’re building a diverse talent pipeline for Best Buy and other companies.

Building a local pipeline

The larger goal of the Career Pathways program is to help teens gain expertise in the most in-demand careers in their own communities. Each Teen Tech Center that supports a Career Pathways program is stocked with the resources to make that happen.

For instance, Best Buy provides a grant to pay for coordinators like Raymie, whose responsibility is not only running the program but also connecting with area businesses. Those business relationships are vital in creating the summer internship positions.

Wiley, a teen who participates in the Career Pathways program in Pittsburgh, applied the skills he’d gained through Career Pathways to his internship in a local Best Buy store.

“The program really helped me hone and refine my skills in those key areas that I later hope to pursue a career in, including video production and IT,” he said. “It prepares [teens] for the workforce in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise have had.”

And businesses benefit from a growing pool of trained, talented future workers from their own back yard.

The right skills

To ensure teens are adequately prepared for these types of in-demand internships, Best Buy also provides financial support for the hard- and soft-skills curriculum teens study throughout the year.

Like New Orleans’ partnership with the GRAMMY MUSEUM, the Career Pathways curriculum is designed with the help of national partners that specialize in one of the program’s focus areas. These partnerships ensure that teens are learning from industry experts in every career category — and, in some cases, even qualifying for skills credentials upon completion.

Best Buy’s national curriculum partners include Creating IT Futures, Operation HOPE, Cyber Seniors, Fresh Films, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Mouse+Code Interactive, Project Invent, YR Media and The Clubhouse Network. Best Buy works with each Teen Tech Center to pick the curriculum partners that best reflect the local market.

For Raymie, tying the program’s curriculum to his city’s history of elevating diverse and talented music-makers has been the key to its success.

“Being in a city like New Orleans, a city that’s wrapped up in music in so many ways, and being able to say we’re offering free music tools to the youth with no strings attached — it’s profoundly beautiful,” Raymie said. “It’s not just elevating the computers and the software and the tech, but also making a vision and a dream come to life. It’s a type of autonomy that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

Click here to learn more about Best Buy Teen Tech Centers.