Ameren Partnership Powers Student Learning and Job Opportunities
Feb. 24, 2021 – Work on this story began in early 2020, just before schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges presented over the last year, the partnership between Ameren and North Tech and South Tech continues to provide students with unique, real-world skill development opportunities.
Each fall, students at North Tech and South Tech are asked to sign a contract. Students commit to keep up their attendance, maintain good grades and to stay out of trouble. In exchange the students get unique access to guest speakers, mock job interview training and special job placement test prep. It’s all part of the Ameren Skilled Craft Education Program.
“Basically, we start in October and we plan one or two visits per month with staff from Ameren,” said Jeff Chandler, a counselor at South Tech.
Students and staff take a tour of the Ameren facility in the fall and then throughout the year, Ameren pays its staff to visit the schools and speak with students.
“It’s really nice,” Chandler said. “Ameren is so invested that they are paying staff to come spend time with our students.”
The program is great for North Tech and South Tech, because Ameren hires staff that work in a variety of fields.
“This is a good opportunity for our welding kids; they get to see that Ameren isn’t just about power,” said Matt Adams, an instructor in North Tech’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program.
“We’ve got HVAC guys over there, we have welders here and we have electricians over there,” Adams said while pointing across the shop where students were listening to guest speakers. “It’s a little bit of everything.”
Staff from Ameren will come speak to students about the type of work they do in the field and will also offer demonstrations. One added benefit is when an alum is one of the guest speakers.
“It’s strange to be back as an alum,” said Gerald Daniels, a 2017 graduate of North Tech who went through the Skilled Craft program himself. “It’s a good opportunity to give back to the next generation coming up.”
Daniels benefited immensely from the program. At the time of the interview, he was starting year two as an electrical apprentice with hopes of becoming a journeyman electrician this spring.
“I took it seriously (when I was in the program), but I didn’t realize just how big of an opportunity it was until I graduated and started talking to guys I work with,” Daniels said. “There are guys who came in with me who are older and had been applying for five years and just got in,” he added. “I was just out of high school and it was such a blessing.”
As part of the program, human resources staff from Ameren helps prepare students for the job market. They host two rounds of mock interviews and help students prepare for the job placement exam. If things go well, they end up hiring a number of the students after graduation.
“Last year (2019), they ended up hiring every student who passed the test,” Chandler said.
Nya Grimes, a senior workforce specialist at Ameren, said the program is a win-win for the students and for Ameren itself.
“Ameren views this program as a way to help develop and prepare the next generation of skilled craft workers, while investing in the communities where we live, work and serve,” Grimes said. “Due to the schools' robust curriculum and job readiness training, Ameren benefits by employing students with the skill sets to be successful in a challenging but rewarding career with Ameren.”
While many of the activities have had to take place virtually in the 2020-2021 school year, students continue to have the opportunity to connect with a potential employer and develop real-world skills they’ll put to use as soon as they graduate.