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.
Access leads to passion
During a fall afternoon at the Best Buy Teen Tech Center at Hope Community, Minneapolis, teens Sophia, Joanna and Ariana discussed the experiences they had during paid internships they completed the previous summer.
“I loved the creative aspects of my job,” said Ariana, who interned at the Digital Empowers Academy. “And I loved incorporating tech into the creative aspects of that work as well as helping others.”
“I also consider myself more of a creative person than a technical person,” agreed Sophia, who interned at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters in the creative services and photography division. “I’ve loved working on projects that involved computer, website design and building apps.”
The girls’ internships were part of Best Buy’s Career Pathways. It’s a pilot program designed to ready students for their next chapter, whether that is a career, higher education or both.
Students in the program spend nine months learning skills like information security, digital marketing, computer repair, film production and journalism. They also spend time working on soft skills such as resume writing, interview etiquette, communication and financial literacy. The program culminates in a paid summer internship.
“It was my first internship,” said Joanna, who spent her summer at the African American History Museum in north Minneapolis. “I’m so grateful to have met so many people who mentored me and helped me realize that I can use my skills to help people.”
Career mentoring is critical
Some of those mentors are the staff and volunteers who work at the 11 Best Buy Teen Tech Centers where the program was piloted last year. In 2020, the program will expand to 16 locations.
Andrew “DHop” Hopkinds, the director of youth and family engagement at Hope Community, believes giving girls access to these experiences is pivotal. He 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.
“This program gives the girls the chance to see that not only is technology truly a career option for them, but that, through an internship, they can actually make that option come to life,” DHop said. “The leadership skills they develop, the actual tech skills they gain… they’re able to see how they can actually build something for their community and break the poverty cycle wages they’re used to.
“Just the fact that they have access to top-shelf equipment, let alone putting them into action means they have a real opportunity to do the things they want to in life,” he added.
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.
Best Buy’s commitment to girls in STEM
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.
You can learn more about Best Buy’s social impact work by following @BestBuyCSR.