RICHFIELD, Minn. - Best Buy, one of Minnesota's most successful businesses, is teaching high school students to be ready for the professional world.
"They're learning the knowledge and the skills that they're going to need to be confident working with adults in a real working environment," said Tim Meester, Best Buy's Senior Director of Procurement.
Best Buy is one of about 30 project sponsors serving as mentors to this unique learning experience through Minnetonka High School called Vantage.
"It's giving our students exposure to mentors, giving our students exposure to sponsored projects, that's where they really do the learning. It's not in the classroom, it's out working with professionals in the real world," said Roger Andre, director of Vantage.
Vantage has grown to 170 students in its fifth year and is expected to nearly double by next fall. The students work here, together, on real-life projects for different Minnesota companies.
"I feel like it's a safe environment to work with that when you're in high school and it's a lot more low risk than when it's your first job and it matters a ton," said Jaden Neal, a Vantage student and senior at Minnetonka.
But these students aren't just learning. They're helping, too.
Vantage students analyze data for Best Buy. Through it, they've found ways for the company to become more efficient.
"They give the students a great opportunity to solve real business problems by quantifying certain recommendations that they have," said Meester.
So, then, the students pound out a new plan and present it to executives.
"You would expect them to be nervous and they are, but they're also well-prepared. So, through the 10-week course we've really rounded out their knowledge and their skills about that topic, and they have confidence in their analytics so when they present to those executives, they can answer the questions and that actually surprises our executives often, that they're ready for that," said Meester.
Andre said Vantage's mission is to prepare young people for professional environments.
"And, the reason we do this is because this is how young people want to learn," said Andre. "It's not about our project sponsors doing something for us, it's about our students delivering value to them."