A CLACKMANNANSHIRE girl has broken gender stereotypes in the most traditional of crafts by becoming the first female apprentice to pick up the coppersmith's hammer and torch.

Rebecca Weir, from Alloa, has been recruited by Diageo Abercrombie as a first year Modern Apprentice and is believed to be the first female recruit into the trade in Scotland.

The 18-year-old is part of the latest apprentice intake at Diageo Abercrombie alongside 16-year-old Calum McTaggart from the famous whisky island of Islay, and Steven Key who, at 34, is a mature apprentice recruit.

For centuries coppersmiths have used the same tried and tested methods to make the famous stills which are at the heart of Scotch whisky production.

The apprentices will learn how to hand-beat copper sheets and weld them into whisky stills, as well as being trained in state-of-the-art computer aided design techniques, mastering a blend of strength, skill and patience.

Rebecca, a former Alloa Academy pupil, said: "My guidance teacher told me about the apprenticeship opportunities with Diageo.

"I thought it sounded like a really interesting route and I knew I had to go for it. I wasn't put off by gender stereotypes – I don't think that should stop anyone from doing what they want to do.

"It's really exciting to be part of something which is so important to the whisky industry. I can't wait to get stuck in and learn more about the essential skills needed to build and preserve the stills which produce some of the world's most-loved Scotch whisky."

Rebecca joins a vanguard of female distillers, engineers, blenders and brand ambassadors at Diageo, hoping to inspire other women to join the industry.

At Diageo in Scotland, a quarter of all its apprentices are female; 17 per cent of the malt distilling workforce is female and 40 per cent are in management roles, reflecting the company's focus on diversity in its workforce.

Diageo Abercrombie has created thousands of copper stills since its creation in 1790, and now employs 43 coppersmiths at its site in Alloa - some with more than 40 years' service - with a further nine apprentices to help ensure that the growing global demand is met.

Mentor and operations manager at Diageo Abercrombie, Charlie King, said it has been his career's ambition to encourage young people to consider a coppersmith career.

He added: "There's a strong relationship between stills and flavour, meaning our work is tailored to each specific project and so almost no part of the craft can be automated.

"The traditional coppersmith skills take 10 years to master but once mastered, it's a career to last a lifetime. If there were to be a gap in skills, the trade would be lost forever – you can't learn this out of a book – so you can see how important it is for us to nurture the next generation.

"As a company, we look to give opportunities to anyone who deserves them and these three budding apprentices were definitely the right candidates for this year's programme."