Since the beginning of September this year, the newly-built Health and Education Center (GEBIZ) at the headquarters of Groz-Beckert KG has been full of life. The new facilities at the Center – the "Malesfelsen Kindergarten", the "Malesfelsen Elementary School" and the "Malesfelsen Health Center" – have now been officially opened in a special ceremony. Following the opening, special access to the GEBIZ was granted to selected visitors – and over 3,500 of them took the opportunity to get a close-up look at this unique project.
At the ceremony with invited guests held on Tuesday, October 22, the GEBIZ was officially opened. Dr. Thomas Lindner, Chairman of the Groz-Beckert Board of Management, gave the 70 guests from politics and industry background information on how the idea for the GEBIZ was first conceived. It was initially planned as a daycare solution for the children of Groz-Beckert employees, but it soon became clear that a more comprehensive concept was required in order to react effectively to the everyday challenges facing parents.
These challenges are now being mastered by the GEBIZ. With its "Malesfelsen Kindergarten" and "Malesfelsen Elementary School" takes care of daycare and holistic education of children aged 0 to 10, and the training opportunities at the "Malesfelsen Health Center" along with a physiotherapy practice provide an excellent basis for employee healthcare and further motivation. The GEBIZ also houses the BKK Groz-Beckert health insurance fund as well as a surgery for the company physician and company medics.
"Naturally, we also want to position ourselves as an attractive employer," explained Dr. Lindner, adding that educational opportunities for potential new employees were an important criterion when deciding on a new job at a new location. He said he regarded the offer of a private elementary school as an enhancement rather than a replacement of the official state education system, and called on politicians to align and improve the educational standards in the country as a whole.
Several keynote speakers at the ceremony emphasized the special role that the GEBIZ will be playing. Dr. Jürgen Gneveckow, Mayor of the Town of Albstadt, underlined the importance of Groz-Beckert's activities at its headquarters. He said that the GEBIZ was a further declaration in favor of Albstadt and was sending a signal not only to Groz-Beckert employees but also to the town: "Your investment reflects your far-sightedness, your close connection with your employees, and with the town of Albstadt." The Mayor added that Groz-Beckert's decision to build the GEBIZ had also further enhanced the town's standing in the region as a whole.
Sibylle Boldt, representing the works council, emphasized the significance of the GEBIZ for the Groz-Beckert employees, describing the new Health and Education Center as a landmark project with benefits for both the company and its personnel. She said that both stood to gain a great deal from the project.
Michael Maute, one of the three managers of the company operating the Health Center, described the GEBIZ as a project that was probably unique in Germany, enabling optimally integrated healthcare for the company's workforce.
Anke Klein, CEO of Klett Lernen und Bildung GmbH, the company operating the "Malesfelsen Kindergarten" and the "Malesfelsen Elementary School", expressed her enthusiasm for the opportunities provided by the two facilities in the GEBIZ. She said how astonished and gratified she was by how effectively and efficiently Groz-Beckert, as the initiator of the education concept, had followed through on its quality standards at the kindergarten and the school. In her view, she added, a good school means promoting and fostering individual strengths and competencies, while taking into account the child's view of everyday life. She emphasized that books were not the only means of learning here but also individual action and experience – in the craft and workshop rooms, for instance, or in the outdoor areas. Ms. Klein added that a good school also meant providing the children with a good place to live, and that the GEBIZ – with its modern, attractive rooms, balanced diet and good childcare – provided just that.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Christiane Spiel went on to describe the pedagogical concept behind the kindergarten and the elementary school in more detail. In her speech at the ceremony, the psychologist, who runs the Institute for Applied Psychology, Work, Education and Economics at the University of Vienna, outlined the origins of educational motivation and how it can be enhanced and fostered. Referring to the title of her speech, "Creating the prerequisites for lifelong learning", the psychologist emphasized the key role that is played by a child's initial learning experiences at kindergarten and school age.
She said it was important that children should learn early on how they can be successful through their own efforts. They should not be influenced here by factors such as sexual stereotypes, however, which are often a subconscious aspect of some educators' teaching styles. She said that teachers should in future see themselves more in the role of trainers accompanying the children's learning process, rather than as mere evaluators of their efforts. One of the biggest challenges, she said, was to design a lesson in such a way as to cover all the levels of interests within a single class. Physics, for instance, should not only be taught with an emphasis on technology, because this tends to scare girls off the subject at an early age.
In her speech the professor outlined several factors influencing a child's learning and learning success, and underlined the special challenges faced by the "Malesfelsen Kindergarten" and "Malesfelsen Elementary School". She ended her speech with the words: "Change requires courage – and here, you have proven just that."
Tours of the buildings ended the first day, and they were also the main feature of the Open Day that followed on Saturday, October 26 – for invited guests with a connection to Groz-Beckert. Over 3,500 took the opportunity to inspect the rooms at the kindergarten, elementary school, the BKK Groz-Beckert company health fund and the Malesfelsen health center. Great interest was shown not only in the rooms but also in the accompanying program of events. The children from the kindergarten and the elementary school put on a performance of the kids' musical "Elmar" on the stage in the central marketplace of the education section. In addition to exhibitions of paintings and handicraft items, and individual consultations about the education section with parents, the young visitors were also kept fully entertained with handiwork and make-up sessions as well as a colorful performance by a balloon artist.
In the health section, many visitors took the opportunity of finding out more about the services offered by the BKK Groz-Beckert company health fund, and also inspected the rooms for the company physician, medic and physiotherapist. During their tour of the premises the guests were clearly impressed by the training and wellness facilities in the prevention and training area, where explanations about the different sports devices were provided alongside several demonstrations from the course program. In the mess hall inside adjoining Groz-Beckert administrative building, the visitors were also provided with plenty of food and drink.
The feedback from the guests was totally positive: they were delighted by what they saw in the education and health sections, but also by the healthcare potential offered by the GEBIZ as a whole. "We're certainly going to make use of this!" was an often-heard remark among the Groz-Beckert employees and their families.