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Best Buy expands after-school program with teen tech centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul

MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
An image of the Best Buy Teen Tech Center at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

Best Buy is opening its third Twin Cities after-school program in St. Paul’s Keystone Community Services on Wednesday as part of an effort to help teenagers develop an aptitude for technology and prepare them for a career in the fast-growing industry.

The launch comes a week after the retailer opened a similar program — Best Buy Teen Tech Center — at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. 

They are among the first seven centers the company plans to establish in the coming years in the Twin Cities, largely focusing its efforts in neighborhoods where young people often lack the means to access technology. 

The initiative is part of a larger campaign that Best Buy has undertaken in partnership with the Boston-based nonprofit Clubhouse Network aimed at reaching nearly 20,000 young people each year through 60 teen tech programs in major cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The company has invested $30 million to grow the Best Buy Teen Tech Centers to provide participants with hands-on, yearlong after-school activities in programming, filmmaking, music production and design, says Best Buy Community Relations Director Andrea Wood. 

How the program works

In 2013, Best Buy opened the state’s first teen tech center in the Minneapolis Central Library to give teenagers the chance to learn how to operate 3-D printers, edit videos, produce music and develop software programs. 

Wood said the program was so successful that the company decided to open additional centers in the Twin Cities and across the country. Its similar teen tech program in Brian Coyle will serve the center’s East-African middle and high school students.

Unlike many existing tech programs, Best Buy Teen Centers do not have a structure or curriculum for participants to follow through and learn specific skills. Instead, students use the advanced tech tools available at center to discover things on their own or with the help of program coordinators or mentors.

“They’re not just coming to learn how to code or develop specific tech skills,” said Wood, who noted that that 80 percent of the jobs in the coming decade will require technology skills. “They’re experimenting with a variety of technology skills and learning about all of the career possibilities. That’s something that’s unique about this program.” 

For older teens who are ready for college or entering the workforce, however, there’s a more structured program available — a yearlong career pathway program that includes weekly classes on various skills in technology. Done in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the program focuses on providing career pathway training to young women and teenage girls.

“The reason for that is that young women are not pursuing careers in tech and are not showing interest in the sector,” Wood said. “They don’t know about the careers and they don’t see role models in tech jobs.”    

After completing the career pathway training, participants receive certificates and are placed in paid internships at Best Buy as well as other partner companies in the Twin Cities and around the country.

Amano Dube, director of the Brian Coyle Center, said the teen tech program is the first such program in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and will “tremendously improve” the skills of the youth who come to the center for services.

“Our kids never had access to this kind of technology at the center,” Dube said. “The teen tech initiative will give them a platform where they can learn new skills and be prepared for the 21st-century workforce.”      

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