How Best Buy is training today’s girls for tomorrow’s tech careers

Tomorrow’s careers will require today’s students to know more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. Demand for technology skills is on the rise, and Best Buy is providing youth — especially girls — with ways to discover what’s new, dream about what’s possible and develop a plan for a successful future.

“Giving young women an opportunity to succeed in a tech-reliant career is an important focus of the social impact programming we develop at Best Buy,” said Andrea Riehl, manager of Best Buy’s signature social impact programs.

We have been working to help inspire girls through technology for more than a decade. From hosting all-girl Geek Squad Academy camps, to building 60+ Best Buy Teen Tech Centers around the country, to establishing mentoring programs that engage women in tech, the company is helping girls see what technology can do — and what they can do with technology.

In addition to our own programs, we’ve been strong supporters of organizations that specifically work with girls. Take Technovation[MN], for example. It’s a competitive program in Minnesota that inspires and enables teen girls to dream up, design, code and pitch mobile phone apps. Best Buy also partners with organizations like the YWCA and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota to ensure girls get engaged in tech early on and stick with it as a career.

Further, we’ve also partnered with Melinda Gates and the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition to double the number of underrepresented women of color who earn computing degrees by 2025.

Best Buy employees around the U.S. join us in our vision by volunteering their time, expertise and encouragement every month.

 

Access leads to passion

High school senior Jacqueline (Jacky) Arana is active at the Best Buy Teen Tech Center within the Bresee Youth Center located just west of downtown Los Angeles. The time she has spent there throughout high school has shown her how technology can lead to many different career tracks.

“I’ve done everything from filmmaking to coding, and if I hadn’t come here I’d have missed out on this whole new side of me,” she said. “It’s a place where you can come and be yourself and meet new people and learn and find your passions.”

For Jacky, it’s where she got to learn the ins and outs of digital cameras and editing software, things she had only watched other people do online, until Best Buy partnered with Bresee.

“I felt so fortunate to be in the program. There was equipment I had dreamt of using but couldn’t afford,” she said.

And the more she tinkered with the state-of-the-art tech and talked with encouraging mentors, the more Jacky felt drawn to filmmaking.

“I really like how it’s a way to express yourself visually, and I love all the different forms of it, like scripts, documentaries, montages and the ability to play around with visuals and music,” she said. “All of the processes get me really excited.”

After she graduates from high school, Jacky plans to head to college with her sights set on pursuing a career as an attorney — thanks to her love of filmmaking. They’re two things she argues are more related than they may seem.

“Both are about storytelling. In a courtroom, you’re trying to convey a message to an audience, just like in filmmaking,” she said. “You are telling stories, except when you’re a lawyer, it’s not your story.”

Career mentoring is critical

Jacky is preparing for her next chapter by participating in Best Buy’s Career Pathways. It’s a pilot program designed to ready students for careers, higher-education, or both. Over nine months, students in the program learn skills like information security, digital marketing, computer repair, film production and journalism. They also spend time working on “soft skills” like resume writing, interview etiquette, communication and financial literacy.

Career Pathways pairs high school students with mentors who are Teen Tech Center staff members or volunteers, and the program culminates in a paid summer internship. It’s piloting in 11 Teen Tech Centers this year and will expand to 16 in 2020.

Chheav Em, high school program director at Bresee, believes giving girls access to these experiences is pivotal. She is grateful to have a partner in Best Buy that sees the unique needs in underserved communities and helps with ongoing support, especially when it comes to supporting girls who find themselves challenged by statistics and stereotypes.

“I’ve heard girls l say, ‘I will be the first female to do this. I will represent women in a heavily male-dominated industry,’” Chheav said. “There is so much for the girls to play with here, and to learn from and be inspired by. You see their eyes light up when someone loves art and you hand them a drawing tablet.”

Andrea, the Best Buy program manager, enjoys hearing stories like these from students and staff around the country.

“I truly believe that the technology that will enrich the lives of the next generation will be made better by having women in the industry — and I can’t wait to see what this generation of young women will create,” she said.

 

You can learn more about Best Buy’s social impact work by following @BestBuyCSR.