Best Buy photo
Best Buy Teen Tech Centers give high school students hands-on experience with tech, such as digital media, robotics, virtual reality and 3D printing.

 

With a looming labor shortage compounded by a lack of training in technology skills, Best Buy Inc. said Tuesday it will have opened 21 tech centers around the country by September as part of a broader effort to provide hands-on learning and mentorship to low-income high school students.

By the start of the school year, the retailer and its various corporate and nonprofit partners will have expanded the Teen Tech Center model into 15 states, including four in Minnesota, with a goal of opening 60 centers across the U.S., Canada and Mexico over the next two years.

The centers are part of a $20 million initiative launched several years ago in which the Richfield-based retailer pledged to amp up its skills training to reach 1 million teens a year by 2020 through the tech centers and other programs. The first center opened in 2012 at the Hennepin County Central Library.

Between 200 and 300 students a year now participate in similar programs that provide hands-on training in such areas as 3D printing, computer programming design, and entrepreneurship. The centers use a combination of paid staff and volunteers, including Best Buy employees.

The company has launched a nationwide awareness campaign to try to increase the number of teens served at local centers. It includes videos written and produced by three teens from North Minneapolis who’ve enrolled in their neighborhood Teen Tech Center.

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