Ahead of International Women’s Day this Friday this Friday, 8th March, Diageo have recruited of the first female coopering apprentices.
First-year coopering apprentices Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick – recruited by leading Scotch distiller Diageo at its Cambus Cooperage in Clackmannanshire - are breaking down the gender barriers and blazing a pioneering trail in the once male dominated trade.
The news marked the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, with Diageo celebrating having women employed in every part of its business in Scotland, from senior management roles, to distillery managers, master blenders, electrical and mechanical engineers, and in the traditional crafts of coppersmith and coopering.
Angela and Kirsty are part of team of 16 coopering apprentices in the Coopering School at Diageo Cambus, learning the tried and tested skills that have been used for centuries to make the oak casks for the maturation of Scotch whisky. The physically demanding four-year apprenticeship, which integrates theory with hands on experience, will allow the apprentices to master the traditional hand-craft skills of the cooper.
Angela Cochrane says “I’ve never been put off by gender stereotypes. I don’t think that should stop anyone from doing what they want to do. And knowing you’re contributing to the growing whisky industry is an amazing feeling.”
Kirsty Olychick, 38, left her home in Canada to pursue a career in the Scotch whisky industry. She says “I’ve always been inspired by the Scotch industry, so it is something I’ve always wanted to be involved in but living in Canada I hadn’t ever been exposed to the coopering craft… Coming into a male-dominated workplace didn’t put me off at all, in fact I found it really empowering to be one of the first women to take up the craft and make my mark in history. It’s such an exciting prospect to think that I’ll be contributing to the next generation of Scotch. You shouldn’t let anything hold you back.”
Cooperage tutor John Carberry is helping to foster the next generation of talent. “It’s been brilliant for everyone here to welcome Angela and Kirsty to the Cambus Cooperage team. They’ve made a great start to their coopering apprenticeships and it’s a pleasure to help tutor them… “The craft of making and rejuvenating the casks is something that has to be cultivated and refined so it’s great to see our apprentices are so passionate about the craft. The traditional coopering skills take 10 years to master but once mastered, it’s a rewarding career which will last a lifetime.”
Ewan Andrew, Director of Diageo International Supply Centre, said the recruitment reflected the efforts across the company to enhance inclusion and diversity across all areas of its operations in Scotland.
He said: “We’re delighted to have recruited Angela and Kirsty and celebrate the landmark of having our first women in the coopering trade. But this is just the start of the journey. Across every part of our business we want to go further and faster in making diversity and inclusion a reality.”
Diageo has invested significantly in its coopering operations in Scotland in recent years, opening the £10 million state-of-the art Cambus Cooperage in 2011.