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Personal Advisor
The Gateway Academy

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Frank Thompson – Personal Advisor Thurrock Careers


Frank Thompson, I work for Thurrock Careers, what used to be Connexions as a personal advisor based here 5 days a week in the Gateway Academy.


My job is to help the teenagers with basically anything that’s going on in their life as a teenager, any of the challenges they face. Get involved in anything from relationships, behaviour problems, anything really that could be a barrier for them moving on to do something positive with their life


To be honest I pride myself in taking a bit of extra time with those youngsters to say, well let’s try and find out the things that will help them to be engaged at least to some extent in school or start to find some alternative education provision that’s ideal for them. We have lots of youngsters here now who go out to do some work experience one day or more during the week just as a bit of an extra to their education that they get here at school.


I was very lucky I left school at sixteen and joined Unilever and I really loved chemistry I liked making stink bombs and fire works and things like that in chemistry and that’s what I wanted to do. One of the key drivers for me to actually leaving the Grammar school at sixteen and going to work was to actually get some money to help the family out at that particular time.


And when I was fifteen, sixteen I had a careers master who I had many conversations with and although the expectation was you stayed on to do A levels and go to university he just said to me, well what’s in your heart, he said follow your heart and I really, my heart wasn’t in school I just wanted to get out there and do something really with chemistry and that’s what I did.


And the my mother was the one who worked at Unilever, she worked in the office so I didn’t really have an interview I just went there as a trainee laboratory technician. Today you’d have called it an apprentice. But they supported me, I worked there four days a week, one day a week at college and a couple of evenings a week to get up degree level in Chemistry or advanced analytical Chemistry and then I had a career in over 36, nearly 37 years in Unilever.


Wasn’t always in the lab, after the laboratory I became a manager in the oil refinery and from then I went into HR, went back into manufacturing for a while but ended up for the last 15 years in HR. And Unilever encourages its employees to get involved in the local community, very, very much involved in education and training while still having a role with Unilever.


I was very, very interested in what Connexions did, and when I had the opportunity to take early retirement at the age of 53 I joined Connexions seven years ago and love it.


My father was a maths teacher in fact he was a maths teacher for 35 years at a school called Torrells which was closed down to create the Gateway Academy, so there’s quite a link there as well and why I’m particularly pleased to be here in the Gateway.


The most wonderful feeling to me about work is that of being wanted and when I come here in the Gateway Academy I get the feeling that the youngsters and staff and their families want my help and there’s no greater feeling than that in the world when somebody actually wants you to help them. What also drives me is the personal sense of achievement and fulfilment I get from meeting the youngsters and their families a year or two or more down the road and hear what they’ve done since they’ve left the school and sort of the wonderful things they’ve done and perhaps the little part you played in that.


The advice I would give young people is encapsulated in a sign I’ve got in my office which says, your heart may be on the left but it’s always right so I would say please always think about what’s really going to make you happy, what’s in your heart and follow your dream, but have a back up plan.


I’m over 60 now and looking to the future I just want to carry on doing what I do and what I love for as long as I can, as long as they want me and as long as I’m fit and healthy enough to be able to do it.



“Follow your dreams but have a back-up plan.” Frank decided to follow his heart and left school at 16 to pursue his love of chemistry, starting out as a trainee lab technician at Unilever. Over the next 36 years, he went on to have a range of roles at the company, finally moving to the HR department. His second career began after taking early retirement when he started work at a young people’s advice service.

More information about Counsellors

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

20%  male 
80%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Jobholders in this unit group provide counselling services to clients with a wide variety of problems by means of assisting them to reach their own resolutions to the difficulties they face. Counsellors may specialise in a particular area or client group or address a wide range of issues.
There are no formal qualifications to entry but relevant experience is necessary. Many employers will expect entrants to have achieved or be working towards accreditation with a professional body via certification or a diploma in counselling. Background checks including a CRB check are likely to be required for counsellors working with vulnerable adults and/or families.
  • Meets clients face-to-face, working either one-to-one or with couples or families, or by telephone or internet;
  • Encourages clients to discuss their feelings in relation to their problems, aiming to ensure that an understanding of the issues is achieved;
  • Presents different perspectives to the problem areas identified;
  • Refers to other appropriate sources of help;
  • Keeps accurate and confidential records.
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Health 10921
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