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US Retailer Aims to Give Tech Experience to Immigrant Teens


FILE - A Best Buy store is seen Feb. 28, 2017.

A major U.S. electronic retailer says it wants to help immigrant and underprivileged teens gain the technology skills they'll need for the job market.

Best Buy, in partnership with a local nongovernmental organization known as the Brian Coyle Center, has opened a tech center in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside area. The center provides after-school computer classes for teens in the area, many of whom come from East African immigrant families.

The company plans to open 60 such centers nationwide by 2020. Trish Walker, the president of service for Best Buy, said the aim is to train a million teens each year to help them be prepared for tech-related jobs.

"Here, teens can learn so many skills, from coding to web programming, music production, 3-D design, editing, fashion design, getting leadership skills, entrepreneurship, mentoring from others," Walker said at the opening ceremony for the center. "Great stuff to be able to prepare the teens for workforce for the future. Eighty percent of the future [jobs] are tech-related."

Hamza Nur is a Somali youth who spent four years learning at the first Minneapolis-area Best Buy tech center, where he learned how to digitally edit and draw.

"I learned so much, and am grateful," Nur said at the ceremony. "I think this is a great idea that we can all learn from. I think the idea of tech center is pretty great one, because it lets all the youth of Cedar have a great experience with technology."

Abdirahman Mukhtar, the youth program director at the Brian Coyle Center, says the center gives young people a positive outlet through which to channel their energy, and it helps to keep them away from drugs and gangs, which have been recurring problems in the area.

"The time of the program is after-school time, and it's [then] that a youth has free time and can commit negative habits," he told VOA's Somali service.

Minneapolis is home to the United States' largest communities of Somali and East African immigrants, most of whom came to the U.S. because of armed conflicts in their home countries.

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