Ameren Training Center, Training Quality Employees
The Ameren Illinois Training Center opened in 1996, with construction beginning in 1995. The building on the front of the property is the Customer Call Center and the Gas Training Center is located on the rear of the property.

Pawnee resident, Janel White is the Superintendent of Gas Training, and she shared about the Gas Training Center. “The majority of the training that takes place here is for the Gas Apprenticeship Program for apprentices from all over the Ameren service territory. The apprenticeship program is a 27-month program, and trainees are here once every six to eight weeks for 3-5 days. If they are from out of town, they stay in Springfield during their training.”

When asked how many trainees there are at one time, Janel shared, “Currently there are a little over 90, and we have had as many as 120 trainees.”

“It is a paid apprenticeship and there is no cost for training,” Janel said. “When the complete the program, they are making a respectable wage with great benefits.”

Most apprentices make it through the training once they have met the initial qualifications and are willing to work hard and put forth an effort to learn. Having a mechanical aptitude helps. “We are not here to fail people; we are here to help them be successful and ensure we have a confident and competent workforce, who will work safely.”

Once they have completed their training, trainees will either move on to be a Gas Journeyman, Gas Regulator Technician, or even a Gas Storage Field Operator. This very important training takes place right outside of Pawnee. The job of a Gas Journeyman entails responding to natural gas emergencies, gas leaks on gas lines, ensuring public safety and the integrity of the pipeline. “They also establish gas service to customers and light pilot lights, install and repair gas mains and services among many other tasks on our system.” Janel added.

Gas Regulator Technicians maintain the regulator stations across the service territory that reduce pressure to the appropriate operating pressure that is delivered to the system. These stations are where odorant is added to the gas to give its distinct smell before it moves on to the distribution system where it makes its way to customers’ property and the pressure is reduced again so that the gas can be used safely in appliances. “For some commercial customers and industrial grain dryers, the natural gas may be delivered at a higher pressure due to size of the equipment and large volume of gas necessary to operate,” Janel explained.

Sometimes the apprentices go on to other jobs in Ameren upon completion as well.

To find out about the apprenticeship program, applicants turn to the website, Career Seekers – There are only a few prerequisites to become an apprentice because employees receive all their training on the job. “They must have a high school diploma or equivalent, a valid driver’s license, the ability to obtain a CDL, pass a CAST (Construction and Skilled Trades) aptitude test and pass a drug screen and background check” Janel said.

There is no age restriction except that the trainee must be at least 18 years old. “Apprentices have ranged from 18 – 61 and we’ve had several females complete the program as well.” Janel said it is important to note that Ameren has been recognized by DiversityInc as the top utility in the nation and region for diversity, best place to work for LGBTQ Equality by Corporate Equality Index, and for Disability Equality by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN).

After meeting these requirements, the trainee must pass a physical abilities test which includes testing for mechanical aptitude. During their schooling, they will have several tests and labs they must pass along the way.

Besides the apprenticeship program, Janel said they also have an Operator Qualification program. “This is a federal requirement from the Department of Transportation. PHMSA (Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) requires that we must verify that those trained are able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the work.”

Onsite they learn how to work in different scenarios, from classroom training, to learning how to operate equipment like trenchers, backhoes, mini excavators, and directional boring machines. They also train at “Methane Meadows,” the mini town where they can conduct simulations for training and qualification.

Once they have completed the apprenticeship, trainees must pass the Operator Qualification evaluation. “In Illinois, we have oversite from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to make sure that we are following the federal requirements for training and qualification.”

With the ICC oversight and the Operator Qualification requirement, consumers can rest assured that those working for Ameren Illinois are properly training, safety minded and prepared. “They get a card identifying covered tasks they are qualified to perform on the pipeline.”

Once they are in the field, the check-up continues from the Quality Assurance team located at the Training Center and throughout the Ameren service territory. “Staff make sure workers are following the requirements,” Janel said.

As for the instructors, Janel said they have all been through the program themselves. “We were all gas journeymen at one time or another.”

This helps when training because the trainees know that their instructors have literally walked in their footsteps! Janel, who has now been with Ameren for over 35 years said, “I started up by Brimfield, then became an apprentice when I moved to Springfield in 1992. I was a part-time meter reader and wanted full-time work. I grew up working with my dad flipping houses before it was popular,” she said explaining how she came to work with tools and enjoy working in this type of field.

​In addition to Janel, two others at the Gas Training Center are also from Pawnee, and one from Divernon, and another from nearby Taylorville. Currently they have 16 full-time employees at the Training Center

Ameren works with the Pawnee Community and others providing outreach and going to community events. “We have a Public Awareness group that goes to schools to teach about natural gas safety – Smell Gas Leave Fast and to call 811 before digging. Public Awareness also works with firemen, police, contractors, and farmers as well.”

Pawnee is one of three Training Centers serving Ameren Illinois coworkers. There is also one in Decatur, and one in Belleville. The Gas Training Center is providing an important job for not only the Pawnee community, but for most of the state of Illinois!