The Oberland workshops have existed for 50 years.
Today around 600 people with disabilities are employed in the four plants in Gaißach, Geretsried, Polling and Miesbach as well as in several branch offices.
It all started in 1970 with small temporary "protective workshops" in Bad Tölz and in Polling.
The local self-help associations founded by the affected parents had opened them.
A small number of adult people with mental disabilities who had outgrown their compulsory schooling at the life-practice oriented special schools were taken into care and employed with simple handicrafts in the workshops.
The parents are firmly convinced that the right to meaningful employment, i.e. a place in working life and participation in society, should also be a matter of course for these people and part of their human dignity.
It was the district of Upper Bavaria that was able to convince the Lebenshilfe district associations to jointly found a larger unit and a powerful regional association as shareholders: the Oberland workshops.
The district was and is the responsible sponsor for measures to integrate people with disabilities.
The merger was completed on April 1, 1973. Maria Schnitzer was the chairwoman in Bad Tölz at the time.
At the time, the volunteer fathers and mothers on the various Lebenshilfe boards did not even dare to hope that an extremely efficient and beneficial institution would emerge from this, which rightly enjoys broad social recognition and esteem.
Today, the company not only employs over 600 people with disabilities, but also offers around 200 secure and qualified jobs in social, operational and commercial areas.
It is therefore an important factor in the value chain for the region.
Martin Zeller left a lasting mark on the company
In 1979, the first new workshop was put into operation in Gaißach, which is still the company's headquarters today.
After initial teething problems, the actual success story of the Oberland workshops began in March 1982 with Managing Director Martin Zeller, who quickly and prudently put the GmbH on course and left a lasting impression.
In 1989, a new workshop was built in Polling, and in 1996 another company on Gustav-Adolf-Strasse in Geretsried.
In 1998 the new Miesbach plant was added.
A completely different development had taken place there: the former Wendelstein workshop in Hausham was not sponsored by the local Lebenshilfe district association, but by the district.
In 1995, the district council decided to hand over the municipal sponsorship to the Oberland workshops, which were regarded as highly competent.
The mission statements of the Oberland workshops have constantly evolved over the 50 years of their existence.
From the idea of the founding years to "protect" the people entrusted to them, the workshops have changed into modern and technically well-equipped companies that promote the participation of disabled people in working life with a wide range of offers.
According to Prof. Martin Lechner, board member at Lebenshilfe, that is exactly “our understanding of inclusion.
Disabled and non-disabled people do amazing work together, ensure satisfied customers and at the same time assert themselves successfully on the job market.”
Every fifth job is outsourced today
"Promoting through demanding", from supervising to accompanying, helping to shape complex work processes and participation in operational decision-making processes in the workshop council - all of this determines the corporate philosophy today.
That sounds simple, but when it comes to practical implementation, it requires a lot of empathy and patience from everyone involved.
The Oberland workshops are now efficient suppliers for industry and service providers in many areas: in metal and wood processing, assembly, packaging technology, laundry and food service.
In addition, the in-house production that was in the foreground during the founding years has lost importance.
Instead, the cooperations entered into with well-known regional partner companies such as the global group Roche Diagnostics in Penzberg, Avery Dennison Zweckform and OPED in Oberlaindern and Bauer in Weilheim are groundbreaking.
The working groups outsourced there bear witness to the workshops' consolidated self-confidence.
Every fifth job has now been outsourced and is therefore very close to the primary labor market.
From this it can be judged
Proven concept for success: try something new
A tried-and-tested recipe for success for the workshops was also to develop new business ideas and try out new things - including the courage to make mistakes in accordance with the principle of "trial and error": At the time, the opening of our own supermarket in Gmund am Tegernsee attracted a lot of attention.
This project failed, but the experience gained from it has pushed the company forward, according to management.
After the long-time managing director Martin Zeller left the company in 2015, Oliver Goselits took over his position.
The 49-year-old social worker was previously the managing director of Lebenshilfe Tirol.
In recent years, Goselitz has developed the company solidly and restructured it into three regions (Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen, Miesbach and Weilheim).
In particular, the range of jobs for people with mental illnesses has been steadily expanded.
For this purpose, a new building was moved into in Geretsried last year.
Overall, more and more different work areas have been created.
"We attach great importance to this," emphasizes Goselitz: "We help shape the process of inclusion of people with disabilities in the general labor market.
These are great achievements
Despite economic performance and an impressive social record: The workshops wouldn’t be the workshops if they didn’t have the support of the population and if there weren’t so many people who support them as much as they can – as politicians and business partners, as customers and donors or just simply as friends of disabled people.
In addition, the workshops remain closely linked to the local self-help associations as their shareholders.
Because they also provide places in the dormitories, for example, which many workshop employees urgently need.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary, there will be an open day at the Geretsried plant next Friday, March 31, from 1 to 5 p.m.
Such events will also take place in Polling on May 12th and in Miesbach on July 7th.
An internal event for employees is planned for the Gaißach plant in the autumn.
You can find even more current news from the region around at Merkur.de/Bad Tölz.