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Ameren Illinois on Tuesday announced plans for a new electric training center in Belleville, another element of its 10-year, $625 million grid modernization plan.

The center will be used to train up to 100 new or existing employees at a time in areas such as line maintenance and to provide support for yet-to-be-installed automated "smart meters."

Ameren officials said the Metro East location allows it to leverage an existing workforce training collaboration with Southwestern Illinois College.

"This partnership is helping provide area residents the opportunity to gain the credentials they’ll need to compete for good jobs in our rapidly changing industry," said Michael Moehn, Ameren Illinois senior vice president of customer operations.

The Belleville training center involves the renovation of existing structures, including a 15,000-square-foot main building, and will have indoor and outdoor classrooms.

Work will begin this spring and be completed later this year, the company said.

Ameren said it's also updating its existing training center in Decatur.

Together, the two training centers represent an investment of about $7 million, Ameren said.

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