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30-01-2016, 18:24
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Successful candidate Kean Hiscock

By The Bloke From Hull...
After a successful summer advertising campaign for an apprentice, Master Cooper Alastair Simms finally got his man in October. The story of his business and his requirement for new blood to continue his ancient trade had gone viral in the local and National press. He was interviewed by Vanessa Feltz one lunchtime on Radio 2 and a further evening interview took place across the syndicated National local radio network. However, top of the shop was an appearance on the ITV National News.
Hundreds of job applications arrived from near and far on Alistair’s physical and electronic mats. Following a considerable amount of sifting and narrowing down, six candidates remained by the final interview day on October 17, 2015.
It was a bright and sunny Saturday lunchtime when they began to arrive, all agreeing that it was great to have the opportunity and a privilege to make it so far along the selection process. All bar one had previous experience of working with wood in one form or another and this was to prove crucial in the selection process which consisted of two elements, a regular sit down HR type interview and two practical aptitude tests.
Two tasks were shown to the candidates before they were invited to “have a go”. The first was raising a cask, which in layman's terms is putting the hoops on staves while the second was dressing out - smoothing out the inside of the cask once assembled.
Two of the six candidates were well ahead of the others in these tasks and there was not much to choose between them. However, from the duo Alastair chose Kean Hiscock for a couple of reasons. Although he’d no serious experience with working with wood, Alastair saw some something of himself when he was young in Kean. He also felt that he was the embodiment of a blank canvass which could be crafted into shape.
During the practical tasks Kean showed the correct attitude. He paid full attention to the demonstrations and showed great concentration, competency and hand/eye coordination. Alastair also noticed that Kean had the same sort of dry, cheeky humour that coopers require and display.
Kean has grown up in West Yorkshire and as well as a good formal education has also excelled in an inherited family gift - sport, representing Yorkshire at Under 19 level at Rugby League. As such his ambitions had initially lain in the sporting path as a PE instructor. However, the chance of a lifetime to learn the rare skill of the cooper was a unique opportunity to strive for. He had learned of the job vacancy by word of mouth and realised that if successful it would be a massive skill to attain. He did his research in preparation and gave the impression of being a confident young man, despite later admitting that he was nervous.
When Alastair rang him later on interview day, he thought that it was going to be bad news but it was quite the reverse. He later stated: “I hope to work in the business for many years, thereby keeping the trade alive”.

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From left: Wine cooper Cassandra Phillips, master cooper
Alastair Simms and new apprentice Kean Hiscock

Prior to Kean’s appointment, Alastair’s order book was at bursting point with an ever increasing demand for his services not only to make and repair casks for beer but to also maintain and service large vats at a number of large independent breweries and cider makers. He had already taken on South Australian wine cooper, Cassandra Phillips but an apprentice was vital.

There are no technical college courses with day release facilities for learning the “art of the cooper” and Kean will learn “on the job” with one-to-one practical training. Kean’s apprenticeship has now begun and will last for four years, covering not only all practical aspects of the business but also interpersonal skills in day to day interaction with customers and clients together with learning the art of giving demonstrations and lectures to various groups around the country.
The apprenticeship is being funded externally by the London based livery company, the Worshipful Company of Coopers, which is extremely keen to encourage and support the current revival in the country and Yorkshire in particular.
After just a couple of months at the White Rose Cooperage in Wetherby, Kean has shown a considerable aptitude to learn so many new skills and has already successfully assisted in the completion of several contracts including several vat repair jobs and lecture outings to London. When asked recently about his new job Kean stated: “It is very interesting hard work, both enjoyable and rewarding.” For his part Alastair said: “I am more than pleased with Kean’s attitude and temperament. He is making great progress.”
Long may it continue.


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