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One universal framework for essential skills

The Skills Builder Universal Framework shows how to build essential skills at every stage of life. Start using it today, for free.
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Developed over four years,
the Framework is being used by

500+

schools and colleges

120+

employer partners

90+

impact organisations

... all building the essential skills of

200,000+

individuals

See others using the Framework

Cleeve Meadow (SEN)
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Cleeve Meadow (SEN)

Cleeve Meadow School in Sidcup, Kent are a free school which opened in 2019 for secondary aged students with moderate learning difficulties, and associated social communication needs.  They are part of The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) and are co-located with Cleeve Park School, an inclusive mainstream secondary school.  The school joined the Skills Builder Partnership to provide learners with the tools needed to allow them to co-operate and collaborate with their peers, as well as preparing them fully for the world of work.

The school has a vision to provide all learners with the skills needed to allow them to live as independent adults as far as possible, both in their home and work life.  The development of career aspirations is a high priority and the Senior Leadership Team are passionate about learners becoming as independent as possible.  Cleeve Meadow provide an engaging and highly aspirational curriculum and embedding the eight essential skills across all subjects and making these visual around the school building supports consistency of skill development in all aspects of learning and life.

To highlight the transferability of skills, the use of a common language and Framework keeps things simple.  ‘We use the skill step posters around school to remind students of the skills we were working on, and used the passports in class so the students could record their progress.  We encouraged students to identify times in the day when they have demonstrated specific steps and talk about how they had done this,’ says Helen Nobbs, Class Teacher and KS3 Lead at Cleeve Meadow.

Using the Framework to highlight strengths and demonstrate skill development has been key to motivating learners and understanding what the essential skills look like in practice.  ‘It has also been evident that some of the quieter students have really enjoyed the opportunity to develop their confidence, with several of them giving ideas and opinions in team work tasks, a lot of them for the first time,’ Helen continues.  ‘They are able to talk proudly about the steps and skills they have achieved, and know where they would like to improve.’

Hornsey School for Girls (Secondary)
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Hornsey School for Girls (Secondary)

Chimene Peddie, Skills Leader & Head of Enterprise at Hornsey School for Girls, recognised that in a rapidly changing world, equipping students with essential skills is the best way to empower them in any career.

Since 2018, we’ve been working together on a strategic approach. Essential skills have been integrated into tutor time, where staff deliver aspects of the PSHE curriculum. Teachers use short activities from the Skills Builder Hub, which require minimal preparation and encourage reflection. Wall displays are prominent, and teachers highlight and reward students applying skills, like great Leadership and effective Problem Solving.

Chimene has also collaborated with department leads to build essential skills teaching into their subject. Finally, in conjunction with the school’s focus on STEM and meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks, Chimene has brought skills to life with Challenge Days, and inspiring Trips to local employers - as well as organising for professionals to speak to students about their journey and how they use essential skills every day.

“If you’re a teacher, you can see the benefit immediately… A name for each skill and a way of demonstrating and assessing its use makes all the difference.”

Chimene Peddie  /  Skills Leader & Head of Enterprise

“Consistency is key… a common language around skill development with students, teachers and external visitors. We have a three-year plan for embedding skill development and careers experiences, which allows us to monitor our approach and track our progress. We’ve introduced our plan and the resources to all teaching staff, including time for reflection and what best practice would look like.”

Louise Kothari  /  Careers Leader & Deputy Head

Oak Grove (SEN)
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Oak Grove (SEN)

Oak Grove College in Worthing provide special education for secondary-age students with a range of additional learning needs. They joined the Skills Builder Partnership to help their students develop the eight essential skills for success, through teacher training and making use of the various teaching and learning resources available on the Skills Builder Hub.

The college provides ‘an inspirational, safe, fun and stimulating learning environment’ for all of its students, with a central focus on ensuring their students are prepared to take an active role in their community. As part of this focus, some students from Oak Grove have been working with The Sand Project – also a member of the Skills Builder Partnership – which aims to train, develop and promote people with additional needs.

The use of a common language and Framework keeps things simple and consistent. ‘A lot of the learning we try to do, particularly in our work-related learning, is to do with Teamwork and Problem Solving,’ says Carol Noble, who is 6th Form Curriculum Lead at Oak Grove. ‘With Skills Builder, it makes things much more explicit because you can see how people go up the Steps.’

Oak Grove College's work with The Sand Project is a perfect example of this. In the classroom, staff can refer to specific skill Steps on the Framework as part of their teaching. Then, when students develop their skills in a practical setting, like working in the Stars & Dandelions retail shop run by The Sand Project, they encounter the same Framework, discuss using the same language and work on the same goals.

William Tyndale (Primary)
Organisation
Employer
Educator

William Tyndale (Primary)

Sophie Gavalda, Skills Leader & Assistant Head at William Tyndale, has been working with us since 2013 to pioneer a deeply integrated, long-term approach to essential skills education.

It’s crucial to start young, so Sophie has structured a whole-school programme so that all students - from Nursery to Year 6 - develop the eight skills explicitly and measure progress year on year. This means that all students can articulate their strengths and focus tightly on what they need to learn. The programme includes a range of experiences to bring skills to life, including Challenge Days, Trips to Employers and Projects.

Sophie has also forged links with other aspects of school life, making sure students see the relevance of essential skills across the curriculum. For example, the skills are incorporated into debating and oracy, and are referenced regularly in assemblies. The school has even created its own classroom projects and developed connections with local employers as a way to further build and contextualise essential skills.

“The high-quality resources, tools for assessment and innovative Projects have brought us on our journey to today, six years later… it’s now the platform for all parts of our curriculum.”

Sophie Gavalda  /  Skills Leader & Assistant Head

“We’re supported by a strong team of education professionals who understand how schools work… The programme is easy to follow, easy to implement, and, most importantly, easy to make sustainable. Sophie has championed the school’s aspiration relentlessly, with the result that Skills Builder has become an inextricable part of our school’s identity.”

Tanya Watson  /  Headteacher

Boots
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Boots

Boots prides itself on being at the heart of its communities and its supportive working culture. They recognise that people need skills that will support them as they move from school to work, from entry-level to management roles and from a career in one industry to a career in another. In the face of Covid-19 and its longer term impact, they see Essential Skills as more important than ever.

Boots UK’s HR Director Nathan Clements leads Business in the Community’s Future Skills and Good Work taskforce. He sees the Skills Builder Universal Framework as key to building a common language around essential skills from education through to employment. He says: “This is a defining moment for UK Plc as we adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic and consider the shape of business and society in the future. The eight Essential Skills of listening, speaking, problem solving, creativity, staying positive, aiming high, leadership and teamwork are the ultimate transferable skills. I urge business leaders to adopt these skills for hiring and developing their employees and to promote their uptake in schools, colleges and universities across the country.”

As a Skills Builder Trailblazer company, Boots UK is leading by example, incorporating the skills in their apprenticeship recruitment and learning and development resources. They have included information for candidates, parents and teachers on their new apprenticeship hub on Boots.jobs; used these skills in their Optician Apprenticeship job description; updated recruitment and engagement packs, building the skills into surveys for candidates and line managers and briefed assessor-tutors on bringing the language to life in teaching resources and curriculum design. They are also aligning the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the Boots Academy offer, developing bite-sized learning to meet different needs for skills at core, advanced and mastery levels.

Clarion Housing Group
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Clarion Housing Group

Skills Builder Partnership and Clarion Housing Group have been working together to support essential skills development in schools since 2016. Together we have delivered inspirational student visits to Clarion's head office in London and widened the reach and impact of Skills Builder school programmes in Bromley and Merton, supporting over 2,000 primary students.  

Clarion Housing Group are now using the Skills Builder Universal Framework to help develop essential skills within the business. The Skills Builder Universal Framework has been used to design a programme to help five new apprentices, who are working towards a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Business Administration, to explore their essential skills and pass their end point assessment. Across a series of three online workshops, apprentices will explore how they use their essential skills in their work and take part in exercises to build the essential skills of teamwork and creativity.

The programme will also support apprentices, over a period of three months, to find opportunities for deliberate practice and reflection on all eight of the essential skills.

Alex Dean, Apprenticeship Development Manager, said: ‘We develop hundreds of apprentices each year through our mentoring programme. We recognise that it is vital that our apprentices build essential skills in conjunction with technical ability.  By partnering with Skills Builder we are confident that our apprentices can become the well-rounded team members that we need.’

East London Business Alliance
Organisation
Employer
Educator

East London Business Alliance

East London Business Alliance are using the Skills Builder Universal Framework to help them understand how participants develop essential skills through their existing programmes. This new understanding will support ELBA to explain the value of their programmes to key stakeholders including current and prospective programme participants, funders and supporters.

ELBA are also using the framework to help explain the mutual benefits of volunteering. ELBA seeks to boost the recruitment of volunteers for their programmes by promoting the idea that volunteering can be used to support staff to build their essential skills.

They are also using the framework to identify how programmes can be optimised to further develop essential skills. Staff involved in delivering their careers, employability and mentoring programmes are using the framework to design content and materials which help build the essential skills.

This means participants, such as those on programmes to help those vulnerable to challenges presented by automation, will be supported to think differently about the skills they have and the skills they should develop in future.

ELBA’s Chief Executive Officer Ian Parkes is clear on the benefits of this work. He says: "ELBA's role is to work with our business partners to promote social mobility, address inequality and reduce poverty. The Skills Builder Universal Framework will take us to the next level in equipping people to succeed by giving them a language they can use to talk about their skills”.

KPMG
Organisation
Employer
Educator

KPMG

KPMG sees social mobility as an integral part of the future of their business. They recognised through trusted sources like the Sutton Trust that students from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds had fewer opportunities to develop essential, non-academic skills valued by employers. The Skills Builder Universal Framework offers KPMG a structural solution to building essential skills and improving social mobility, with a focus on measurable impact.

The company first integrated the framework into its WorkReady initiative, which focuses on young people in the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Students engage with coding software and VR equipment in response to a business challenge while learning about the changing world of work and building skills in creativity, problem solving and teamwork. KPMG are now embedding Essential Skills across all their employability programmes, working with partner organisations to make sure the Skills Builder Universal Framework is threaded through their development and evaluation processes.

They also recognised that the eight Essential Skills mapped to key competencies KPMG was looking for in apprentices and graduates. As a Skills Builder Trailblazer they are trialling the framework with their Level 3 Business Administration apprentices with a workshop series that supports apprentices to:

• Explore what essential skills are and why they matter

• Reflect on their own essential skills, individually and with a peer

• Participate in a workshop with a particular focus on teamwork and speaking

• Develop their own plans about how they can continue to build their essential skills

• Agree an action plan for how they will boost their essential skills.

One of the key benefits they’re seeing so far is an emerging consensus around a common language for talking about Essential Skills, with potential to deliver real impact for young people both inside and outside the organisation.

Tideway
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Tideway

Since 2019, Tideway have used the Universal Skills Framework to support their outreach activities. These week long programmes introduce young people to employment opportunities in the construction industry and develop their essentials skill through practical exercises. Exercises can range from shadowing team meetings, were participants see Leadership skills in action, through to presentation opportunities where the young people can build their speaking skills. Throughout, participants capture their progress and observations in a Skill Passport to facilitate later reflection on their essential skills.

After noticing how well their programmes could accelerate essential skills development in young people, the team at Tideway began to explore how the framework could be used to help their staff to develop their essential skills. This led to them identifying how the framework can be used to accelerate staff development through volunteering.

By mapping their existing volunteering activities against the Universal Skills Framework, the team at Tideway were able to understand which volunteering programmes were developing essential skills. Their method is to then use this insight to target specific volunteering opportunities to staff who have an interest in building certain essential skills.

Tideway are piloting this approach with a cohort of volunteering ambassadors who will use a skills matrix, developed with the eight essential skills and 16 steps, to map out their own skills development journey. They hope their approach will help staff and stakeholders to better understand the business case for employee volunteering.

Children's University
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Children's University

Children’s University works nationally across 69 local authorities reaching over 110,000 students to offer limitless learning beyond the classroom. This year they transferred their Passport to Learning online, supporting a greater understanding of the skills being developed through a diverse range of extra-curricular activities.

Learning providers select up to 3 top skills that a child will learn which can then be discussed and validated by a Children’s University manager. Children can then collect stamps across all eight skills through a multitude of clubs.

Aligning to the Framework has allowed children to reflect on their progress in the skills and identify new opportunities. Children’s University gains a national picture of participation to help share best practice and increase access to providers.

Children’s University are undertaking an exciting new phase to further integrate the Skills Builder Framework into their online platform to support learners with their self-reflection. Incorporating the language of the steps will enable children to further pinpoint their success and guide their next steps for development.

Harlequins Foundation
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Harlequins Foundation

Since 2019 the Harlequins Foundation and Skills Builder Partnership have been working together to create a Sports Toolkit to transform how all young people develop the essential skills through sport.
This Toolkit is being piloted by community foundations like the Harlequins Foundation, Charlton Athletic Community Trust and Albion in the Community, in addition to sports for development organisations: Street League, Sported, London Youth's fifteen Active Talent organisations, Active Communities Network Hampshire, SportInspired, Sport Impact and the Eton Fives Association’s Westway Club.

The Harlequins Foundation believes that all young people should have the opportunity to develop relevant technical and vocational skills to support employment and entrepreneurship in the 21st century.  They deliver a range of educational opportunities that meet the needs of the local population of their borough heartlands in order to address disparities in education and employment, with a specific focus on those most vulnerable in society.

Their Development Officers and HITZ alternative provision team have integrated the eight skills into their programmes to underpin skills development and support transferability in both sports and education settings. Combining two pillars of their strategic mission, skills and wellbeing, the Harlequins Foundation identified Staying Positive as a core skill in their programmes. Using the Sports Coaching Handbooks, the team will focus on the explicit development of Staying Positive skills across their work and work alongside educators in their network to ensure young people can continue to build and apply these skills.

National Literacy Trust
Organisation
Employer
Educator

National Literacy Trust

National Literacy Trust are an independent charity dedicated to giving disadvantaged children the literacy skills they need to succeed.

The Trust’s flagship literacy and employability programme ‘Words for Work’ is designed for Key Stage 3 and post-16 students.  It challenges the inequality in employment opportunities for young people, giving them the communication skills they need to be successful in the workplace.

Words for Work aims to:

  • Demonstrate the importance of literacy for success in employment by providing workplace context for students
  • Improve young people’s verbal and written communication skills through activities lead by teachers and through engagement with corporate volunteers
  • Give young people confidence in their own abilities and raise their career aspirations

This work has also been expanded to ensure learners are developing the essential skills in all settings, including specialist and alternative provision schools and colleges at all Key Stages.  Words for Work highlights the importance of communication in the development of skills such as Leadership and Teamwork, whilst the careers-related learning focuses on the development of Aiming High skills in younger learners.



Spiral
Organisation
Employer
Educator

Spiral

Spiral deliver workshops, particularly working with students from FE colleges and other post-16 institutions. These interactive workshops focus on equipping young people with the transferable skills essential for success and use activities based on real-life career challenges to support skill development and confidence in career readiness. Their work was already aligned with the Skills Builder essential skills and they develop all 8 through their programmes, with focus areas for each project in line with the Focus Tightly Principle of skill development.

The Spiral team co-design their sessions with employers, and use work-based learning to equip young people with relevant skills, enhance their work experience and populate their CV.  Using the Skills Builder framework for entry and exit-level assessment allows them to measure the impact of these programmes and to highlight young people’s strengths and areas for development.

Spiral’s programmes facilitate young people’s access to employment, apprenticeship, training, or further education opportunities. These are targeted to their interests and supported by their extensive network of opportunity partners, including the Skills Builder Partnership.

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