Diageo recruits UK’s first female apprentice coopers

4th March, 2019 by Melita Kiely

Johnnie Walker owner Diageo has hired the first female apprentice coopers in the UK: Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick.

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Left to right: Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick, Diageo’s first female apprentice coopers

Cochrane and Olychick join a 16-strong team of apprentice coopers at Diageo’s Cambus Cooperage in Clackmannanshire, Scotland.

The Coopering School will teach the apprentices how to make oak casks to mature Scotch whisky over the four-year course, combining theory with hands-on experience.

Cochrane, a 31-year-old former psychiatric nurse, said: “It’s a lot more complex than I thought it would be and I’m knackered when I get in at night, but everything from handling barrels to swinging the hammer is already starting to feel a lot more natural.

“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.”

Olychick, aged 38, left her home in Canada in pursuit of a career in the Scotch whisky industry.

“Having family members who’d previously completed trade apprenticeships helped give me the confidence to go for it,” she said. “I like the fact that you learn the skill by hand – you get the satisfaction of seeing the job done rather than reading about it in a book.”

Diageo opened its £10 million “state-of-the-art” Cambus Cooperage in 2011. Cochrane and Olychick’s recruitment comes at the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week today (4 March).

International Women’s Day

Diageo is also marking International Women’s Day this Friday (8 March) with a video series about its employees, based on the theme of ‘Balance for Better’.

Interviewees include Diane Farrell, senior site manager at Talisker Distillery, who talks about women in the whisky industry; James Ashall, CEO of Movement to Work, discussing how taking parental leave changed his outlook; Hina Nagarajan, managing director, Africa emerging markets, discussing being fearless; and Preeti Arora Razda, finance director for Asia Pacific, on why women shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what they want.

Mairéad Nayager, chief HR officer at Diageo, said: “These videos shine a spotlight on a diverse group of individuals doing very different jobs from around the globe.

“Through this series we hope to contribute to the discussion on why inclusion, diversity and of course balance is always better.”

Click the video below to watch Farrell’s #BalanceforBetter interview.

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