History of apprenticeships offered at Sunshine Harvester Works

'The gateway to a successful career' (Sunshine Review, Dec. 1949)

Apprenticeships offered by the Sunshine Harvester Works provided invaluable training for young men, many of whom used the opportunity to obtain further employment in the factory. Although there had been apprentices working for the company back in the 1880s in Ballarat, the Sunshine Harvester Works' formal apprenticeship program began in 1911 when H.V McKay donated £2,000 and five acres of land to the Victorian Education Department to establish the Sunshine Technical School. The college was located at 129 Derby Street, Sunshine. Forty-seven apprentices enrolled following the school's opening in 1913.

The company provided an innovative program where apprentices were given time off to study at the school while working at the factory. Evening classes were also provided and bonuses were given to studious apprentices to boost performance, reward excellence and increase attendance rates. Additional incentives were offered to apprentices by the 1940s. For instance, school fees were refunded for students who received at least 60% on their annual exam and attended at least 80% of classes. A theatrette established in the Sunshine offices allowed apprentices and other staff to view technical films to assist in their training and development.

Apprentices attended workshops relevant to the Sunshine Harvester Works' operations such as blacksmithing, moulding and casting, turning and fitting. They worked in various departments during a six to 12 month period. Following this rotation, apprentices moved into specific positions such as factory maintenance, tool room fitting and machining. As a result, some apprentices were able to acquire proper employment in other sections of the factory. In addition, the company sent returned servicemen from both wars to be re-trained. The apprenticeship program was temporarily halted during the Great Depression and was resumed in 1937.

The company's senior staff and McKay family members were heavily involved with the school and its curriculum during the first 30 years of the college's existence. They sat on the School Council, promoted the apprenticeship program to the wider community and taught workshops. The Sunshine Harvester Works' engagement with the school began to lessen following Massey-Ferguson's absorption of the company in 1956. The Sunshine Technical School continued to operate until the early 1990s when it became the senior campus of Sunshine Secondary College.

When Massey-Ferguson took over, the company initiated a new apprenticeship program at its apprentice training centre. The company also began a marketing cadetship in 1963.

Massey-Ferguson Review 1963, 'Our Future is in Good Hands' and 'Two Men Have Begun MF Sales Cadetship', vol. 1, no. 7, pp.2, 5.
Sunshine Review 1945, 'Apprenticeships and Apprentices', vol. 2, no. 2, pp.1
Sunshine Review 1945, 'Apprenticeships and Apprentices', vol. 2, no. 3, pp.2.
Sunshine Review 1945, 'Apprenticeships and Apprentices', vol. 2, no. 4, pp.7.
Sunshine Review 1949, 'Gateway to a Successful Career', no. 7, pp.10-11
Ford, O & Vines, G in association with Graeme Butler and Francine Gilfedder 2000, Brimbank City Council Post-contact Heritage Study: Environmental History, Volume 1. Brimbank City Council, viewed 19 June 2013, <>
Ford, O 2001, Harvester Town: The Making of Sunshine, 1890-1925. Sunshine Historical Society Inc, Sunshine.


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