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February 10, 2020

Jessica MoesStaff Writer

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In New Orleans— a city steeped in music and the birthplace of jazz — a Best Buy Teen TechCenter is honoring the town’s rich musical tradition by helping up-and-comingartists 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 diveinto electronic music production, video creation and audio engineering. Byfollowing a curriculum developed through a partnership with the GRAMMY MUSEUM,the teens are able to earn industry-level certifications in audio production, aswell as become proficient in using industry-standard tools and recordingequipment.

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

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

Studentswho enroll in the Career Pathways program spend the first nine months at theTeen Tech Center learning skills in areas like cyber security, digital arts,computer repair, retail skills, entrepreneurship and project management. Theyalso spend time working on soft skills, such as resume writing and businesscommunication. Then, many move on to paid summer internships in local businessesor, in some markets, in Best Buy stores.

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

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

Building a local pipeline

The larger goalof the Career Pathways program is to help teens gain expertise in the mostin-demand careers in their own communities. Each Teen Tech Center that supportsa Career Pathways program is stocked with the resources to make that happen.

For instance, BestBuy provides a grant to pay for coordinators like Raymie, whose responsibilityis not only running the program but also connecting with area businesses. Thosebusiness relationships are vital in creating the summer internship positions.

Wiley, a teenwho participates in the Career Pathways program in Pittsburgh, applied theskills he’d gained through Career Pathways to his internship in a local BestBuy store.

“The programreally helped me hone and refine my skills in those key areas that I later hopeto pursue a career in, including video production and IT,” he said. “Itprepares [teens] for the workforce in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise havehad.”

And businessesbenefit from a growing pool of trained, talented future workers from their ownback yard.

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The right skills

To ensure teensare adequately prepared for these types of in-demand internships, Best Buy alsoprovides financial support for the hard- and soft-skills curriculum teens studythroughout the year.

Like NewOrleans’ partnership with the GRAMMY MUSEUM, the Career Pathways curriculum isdesigned with the help of national partners that specialize in one of theprogram’s focus areas. These partnerships ensure that teens are learning fromindustry experts in every career category — and, in some cases, even qualifyingfor 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, tyingthe program’s curriculum to his city’s history of elevating diverse andtalented music-makers has been the key to its success.

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

Click here to learn more about Best Buy Teen TechCenters.

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