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Best Buy VP on committing $44M to diversity efforts: Bulk of this money will ‘expand career opportunities for youth’ nationwide

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After months of planning, Best Buy announced the company would set aside $44 million to expand college prep and career opportunities for Black and Indigenous Americans. Best Buy Vice President of Social Impact Andrea Wood joins Yahoo Finance Live to weigh in.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Best Buy is stepping up to improve diversity and hiring methods throughout its organization. The company said today, it will set aside $44 million to expand college prep and career opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. For more on this, we're joined by Andrea Wood, who is Best Buy's Vice President of Social Impact. Andrea, good to speak with you again. So that $44 million, where will it be allocated?

ANDREA WOOD: Well, the bulk of it is really to expand our programs for youth across the country, BIPOC youth in particular. So we have a program called Teen Tech Centers, which are free school programs with state of the art technology. We have 35 of these across the country. We are expanding to 100, perhaps even more in the next few years.

And these are really part of a key emerging talent program for Best Buy. So when we look at the communities that we're going into, disinvested communities with high percentage of BIPOC youth, who don't always have the technology, the training, the mentoring, the coaching, and quite frankly, the opportunities to be prepared for the jobs of the future.

And so we are doubling down on investing in those Teen Tech Centers and also post-secondary education support, so looking at scholarships, training programs, guidance counselors within the Teen Tech Centers to really help youth chart their paths and prepare, apply for financial aid, internships at Best Buy, as well as our partner companies, really trying to expand the opportunities for youth nationwide.

JULIE HYMAN: And Andrea, it's Julie here. Part of this seems to also have to do with improving diversity in the store. I mean, it has to do with recruiting, for example, as well. And you're one of the rare companies where the board is actually quite diverse. It's maybe below that in the ranks. And so talk to me about the numbers there at Best Buy and whether you all have set any goals, diversity goals, on that front, what that looks like.

ANDREA WOOD: Right. Well, we are setting some ambitious goals on, that one in three leaders in the company will be represented by BIPOC employees. And that starts with the emerging talent strategy that I just talked about that, but also with our existing employees, in terms of training, development, coaching, and quite frankly, a commitment to elevate employees, give them opportunities to be in leadership positions.

It starts in the stores. It starts at corporate. And making that commitment, we will hold ourselves accountable for those numbers.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Andrea, when I hear you want to go right to high schools to start developing talent, I immediately think there is a labor shortage. And you look at the numbers, there is a retail worker shortage. How severe is it right now?

ANDREA WOOD: It's severe, and it's going to get worse. I just heard a number yesterday about the birth rate is declining again. And obviously, that's tied to expectations about the economy. But we were already facing a workforce shortage, particularly in certain markets in the Twin Cities market, where Best Buy is headquartered. Demographic changes are projecting a serious work shortage in the coming years.

And if we don't reach out to talent, emerging talent, young people, and get them prepared for the jobs that we're going to have, not only will Best Buy be in trouble, in terms of being able to recruit talent, but also our partner companies and the companies that are in our headquarters.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, it's obviously an important trend to continue to watch. I should mention, on a similar front, US job openings were at about 6.6 million in October. So they rose a little bit. So a lot of employers are looking for employees right now, actually. Andrea Wood, thank you so much, Best Buy Vice President of Social Impact. Appreciate your time this morning.

ANDREA WOOD: Thanks for having me.