Andrea Wood, Best Buy, MHTA, TechTalent, Workforce development Andrea Wood is the head of social impact at Best Buy. As a seasoned leader in corporate social responsibility and employee engagement, Wood is sharing her expertise and speaking at the upcoming TechTalent conference on Feb. 27.

Joining fellow tech leaders in our community as they discuss the needs and demands of tomorrow’s talent pipeline, Wood will present on Best Buy’s efforts to inspire and enable more young people to pursue technology careers through its Teen Tech Center programs. Here is a glimpse of what’s in store:

Hello Andrea. What can you tell us about the Teen Tech Center program?
Best Buy is committed to preparing teens from disinvested communities for tech-reliant careers. Best Buy Teen Tech Centers connect young people with resources to realize their potential and channel their talent, energy and ideas into brighter futures. Teen Tech Centers are safe, after-school learning environments equipped with cutting-edge technology and run by trained staff. In each Center, youth learn new tech skills, stay on-track with school, benefit from positive adult and peer relationships, and gain exposure to new career possibilities. We currently have 33 Centers open and are well on our way to doubling that number in the next year.

What is your vision for this project? How does it help build our tech talent pool here and nationwide?
We know that most jobs already require the use of technology, and employers are already struggling to fill STEM-related jobs. By creating opportunities for young people to access the training and tools needed for STEM careers, we’re building a diverse talent pipeline for Best Buy and other companies.

Our programs inspire teens to explore careers in technology and give them the opportunity to put their skills into action through paid internships. Teen Tech Centers also offer a great opportunity for our employees to volunteer in their local communities, while serving as mentors and instructors of the latest and greatest in tech. This helps build relationships between current employees and the talented young people who may one day be a part of our industry, and helps  ensure our stores and distribution centers are able to connect talented new employees from their local communities to career opportunities.

Are there other underrepresented areas in our workforce that you’d like to engage? How would you go about doing so?
Wood: Only 28% of people in STEM professions are women. And when you look at women of color in STEM jobs, the statistics are even more alarming.

But we know it’s not due to a lack of interest — in fact, according to a recent study, 74% of middle school girls express an interest in STEM. Best Buy has made a commitment to support girls-focused programs and organizations in many ways – from our funding priorities, to girl-focused tech clubs and career exploration programs, to our employee engagement strategy. We’re also investing in post-secondary education scholarship programs for Teen Tech Center students, making sure that cost isn’t a barrier for students who want to go to college. We believe that this multi-dimensional approach to funding and program design will help to bridge the gap between young women who are interested in STEM and those who actually pursue STEM careers.

We love that the Teen Tech Centers bring in future talent while giving your current workforce a chance to give back. How can other tech leaders learn from this model, even when they don’t have a retail model like yours?
It’s no secret that creating space for employees to give back and volunteer in their communities makes for a happier, more engaged workforce. We’re very fortunate to have incredibly talented employees, whose skills and passions we’ve been able to integrate into our programs. We’ve designed our employee community engagement strategy around the strengths of our workforce business priorities to leverage our employees’ skills and increase the impact we’re making on the youth we’re serving.

On a daily basis, how do you strive to inspire your current and future talent? How can others do the same?
Best Buy’s rallying cry is “Let’s talk about what’s possible.” We bring this into our work in communities around the country as well as our employee engagement strategy.

Together, with our network of dedicated employees, community organizations, vendor partners and philanthropic supporters, we continue to work toward unleashing the limitless possibilities of technology to ensure all young people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

To learn more about Best Buy’s STEM-based talent initiatives, join Andrea and fellow tech leaders at the TechTalent Conference on Feb. 27.

Register here.