FISW celebrates 20 years with help from local business leaders

Frankfurt International School’s Wiesbaden Campus recently hosted an evening podium discussion at the Kurhaus Kolonnade in Wiesbaden to help celebrate the school’s 20th anniversary. Nearly 100 local and regional business leaders attended the event, which opened with a musical performance by members of the FIS Honor Orchestra.

The evening’s discussion topic “Attracting Talent to the Region: Impulse aus Wirtschaft, Bildung und Politik,” was focused on the growing challenges businesses are facing in finding and retaining skilled workers in the Frankfurt Rhein Main region. Prominent members of the political, institutional and business communities – including Stefan Grüttner, the Hessian Minister of Social Affairs and Dr. Helmut Müller, Wiesbaden’s Mayor – were among those who spoke at the event.

Below is the opening address that I delivered:

Good Evening Minister Grüttner, Mayor Müller, distinguished members of the Consular Corps, honorable panel members and guests.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this event to commemorate the founding of the Wiesbaden Campus of Frankfurt International School 20 years ago. Today’s subject, “Attracting Talent to the Region,” is a highly relevant topic for businesses and institutions – and also one that has been critical to the mission of our school since its founding more than 50 years ago.

From left: Dr. Paul Fochtman, Dr. Helmut Müller, Vera Thiers and Jonathan Clenshaw

My name is Paul Fochtman, and I have been the Head of School at Frankfurt International School since August 2010. Like many of you, my most important task is to attract the best talent to our institution.

Each year our school attends recruiting fairs in Europe, Asia and North America. The same is true of other international schools I have led in India and elsewhere. Quite simply, whether you are in education, business or the Bundesleague, to be the best, you must be able to attract the best to join your team. I am an educator by passion and am privileged to give you a very brief introduction to FIS as we commemorate 20 years of service to the Wiesbaden community.

In 1960, a man named Don Hinkley at Proctor & Gamble was trying to open the company’s first offices in Germany. The conditions for starting up a business were excellent – efficient transportation, a talented labor force and willing government support. However, the one missing component was an international school that would allow P&G families to willingly come to the area. To address this need, Hinkley recruited five other international families and together they founded Frankfurt International School in 1961. We are a non-profit school that remains governed by the parents of our students and maintains a close affiliation to the international business community.

I could speak to you late into the evening about how our school grew from a handful of students to one of Europe’s largest international schools, with roughly 1800 students from over 50 nations. Yet I don’t think this is necessary because like any industry, you already know these stories can be summarized by the work of talented people passionately pursuing high ideals for success.

What is important for you to know is that recent research from the European Relocation Association found that incoming international families rated education as the number one priority for their move to a new area. This was followed closely by housing, recreational opportunities and a clean environment.

It was likely with this understanding that, in the late 1980s, Wiesbaden’s then-mayor Achim Exner, had been observing the growth of global companies in the Rhein Main region. He understood the connection between international business and education, and approached FIS to start a second campus in Wiesbaden. His persuasiveness led to the opening of our Wiesbaden campus in 1992 in Kohleck. We then moved to our current state-of-the-art premises in Naurod in 1998. Today this campus has nearly 200 students from age 3 to Grade 5.

Panel members discuss “Attracting Talent to the Region: Impulse aus Wirtschaft, Bildung und Politik.”

While the local business environment has changed drastically since the founding of our campuses in 1961 and 1992, the one constant that will never change is the need to draw the most capable and productive professionals to the region. Although the education of young minds is the core business of FIS, we are pleased to host this forum tonight to explore this theme of attracting talent to the region.

Special thanks are due to our esteemed speakers and panel members. I would also like to take the opportunity to express the school’s gratitude to the event’s sponsors: CERBERUS Deutschland; ING DiBA; Funds@Work; SoNeAn. We also appreciate the support given to us from the Wiesbaden Amt für Wirschaft und Liegenschaften; and the American Chamber of Commerce.

Guiding us through the evening as well as providing a thought-provoking introduction to our discussion will be Dr. Winfried Kösters, one of Germany’s foremost experts on demographics. But before he takes charge of the microphone, I would like to announce a short musical intermezzo. Our FIS Honor Strings, conducted by Julie Borsodi, will play a piece called King David’s Dance, written by Andrea, a Grade 12 student from Ecuador.

The approximately three-hour event ended with a reception where members of the business community visited over food and drinks.

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