White Rose Cooperage hires new apprentice

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Thorp Arch-based White Rose Cooperage has taken on its first apprentice.

Owner Alastair Simms, the last independent working Master Cooper in England who learned his craft from Masham’s T&R Theakston, said the appointment has been funded by the Worshipful Company of Coopers.

Alastair Simms said of Kean Hiscock’s appointment: “As a result of the increasing demand for and use of coopered casks and vessels, we have been very stretched of late, and I am pleased that in taking on Kean as my apprentice.

“We should be able to satisfy more easily a growing order book, while maintaining the future stability of and hopefully, succession in the business.

“There is a lot for Kean to learn and I hope that he will progress fast. He shows great promise and I am very pleased he has joined me as my apprentice.”

Kean’s four-year apprenticeship will cover all aspects of White Rose Cooperage activities including making and repairing wooden casks and fixed wooden vessels installed in breweries.

The 18-year-old from Garforth added: “I am pleased to have been taken on by Mr Simms as his apprentice, who has given me a unique opportunity to learn valuable skills in a lifetime’s career. There is so much to learn, but with the help of Mr. Simms, I hope to progress rapidly.”

Kean is an Indentured Apprentice which is issued by the National Cooperage Federation. During his four-year apprenticeship he will have to keep a journal of what he learns and during this period he will also get the chance to work in brewery and whisky cooperages.

The business has also taken on extra permanent support with the recruitment of a qualified wine cooper from Adelaide, South Australia.

There are no courses run in England by further educational establishments, and thus, he cannot attend a technical college on a weekly day release basis. Instead, he must learn from Mr Simms ‘on the job’, which has the benefit of one to one practical training with a very experienced working cooper.

That experience covers working at the Cooperage at Thorp Arch, and also in joining Alastair in travelling to breweries and cider mills across England to repair vats and other fixed wooden vessels.

The cost of Kean’s apprenticeship has been funded externally, principally by the Worshipful Company of Coopers, a London based livery company.

The Company is keen to support and foster a revival in wooden cask making in England, where there is little use of wooden casks at present compared with the situation in Scotland.