Today it is my pleasure to reveal the new Universal Skills Builder Framework. With the support of more than 750 organisations in the Skills Builder Partnership, we are on a joint mission to ensure that all young people and adults in the workplace develop the essential skills they need to thrive.
How did this come together?
It has now been two years since we launched the Skills Builder Framework. That Framework had been a 9-month labour of love that had brought together more than sixty individuals and organisations including educators, employers and other organisations invested in building essential skills. For the first time, we wanted to create a shared language and outcomes to enable all of us to work collectively to ensure that every child and young person built the essential skills to thrive.
At the time, it felt like a massive gamble. Would there really be any appetite for collaborating in this way? Would we be willing to put aside the rolling debate on the nuance of what we call those essential skills? Would we be willing to change our respective approaches for the common good?
Two years on and the answer has been a resounding ‘yes’ on every count. There are now more than 750 organisations who are part of the Skills Builder Partnership. They include big corporations, and small start-up employers. It includes primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, special schools, and universities. It includes national organisations like the Careers & Enterprise Company, NCS, the National Literacy Trust and Business in the Community, as well as other partners across the country. Together, more than 200,000 individuals built their essential skills using the Skills Builder approach in the last year alone.
So, why change?
The challenge came from the best place: as the number of organisations using the Framework with children and young people soared, conversation increasingly turned to whether it could be used with adults, and with young people outside of traditional education settings.
The idea was born: to create the next version of the Skills Builder Framework that would work for everyone, wherever they were in their lives. We wanted to build off everything we had learnt to create one Universal Framework fulfilling the tests of:
- Clarity: Being simple enough to be useful in a range of different contexts and to be used by individuals who are not experts.
- Measurability: It should be possible to use the Framework to reliably understand the existing skillset of individuals, and to measure growth.
- Authority: The Framework should be backed by evidence and by organisations who give it credibility.
The approach we took: The Essential Skills Taskforce
Developing the original Skills Builder Framework had taken everything we knew about building essential skills for children and young people. This next phase meant focusing on extending the Framework into the wider world and employment, whilst not losing what was working so well in education.
We were delighted to work as part of the Essential Skills Taskforce on this project, chaired by Sir John Holman, the author of the Gatsby Benchmarks. Alongside were brilliant colleagues from Business in the Community, Careers & Enterprise Company, CBI, CIPD, EY Foundation and myself.
We took a rigorous approach to this work, as captured in this report: Towards an Universal Framework for Essential Skills. In the first phase, we stress-tested the existing Framework against:
- International examples of employability frameworks
- Apprenticeship standards that outlined the skills need
- Job advertisement data
- Graduate attribute statements which outline the broad skills universities want their students to build
In doing so, we found some additions to make to the Framework, including coaching, mentoring, strategic thinking and negotiation.
In the second phase, we tested this through a series of roundtables across the country, attended by more than 30 businesses and other employers. This helped to check whether the Universal Framework could be practically useful.
The third phase was to work with ten organisations to test the Universal Framework in practice including ELBA, KPMG, Clarion, City Year, Tideway, Boots and Accenture. Through this work, we saw how the Universal Framework could support recruitment, staff training and development, and inspiring and equipping those outside of the labour market to be more employable.
So, what’s changed?
At the end of all of this work, as well as some additions of content, there are three big changes that have been made:
- The language is neutral: It can work for anyone, anywhere and at any stage in their career. We recognise that individuals are likely to be at different steps in their essential skills at different times and we wanted the language to reflect that.
- The progression is clearer: We have simplified the language of the Universal Framework, to make it much clearer how one step leads on from another. This makes it easier to track progress, and see the next steps to work on.
- There’s a lot more detail: As well as the Framework, there is now detailed guidance available on every step to walk through how to assess whether you have the skill step, what you need to know, and then how to put it into practice.
I’d encourage you to have a look around, and get stuck into the Skills Builder Universal Framework and explore the individual skill steps.
Our aspiration is that the Skills Builder Universal Framework becomes a national standard for essential skills. If we can achieve this, we will be able to join up the journey from education through into employment – removing the mystery on both sides.
We think this would be a huge win for everyone in the Partnership – whether employers, organisations or educators.
We are committing to maintaining the Universal Framework in its current form for the next five years, through to Summer 2025. We will have an open process of reviewing the Framework from January 2024 so that we can build in what we have learnt, and keep getting better. We think this is the right balance between ensuring stability, and not allowing the Framework to get out of date.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved with this process – particularly Sir John Holman for chairing the Taskforce and all its members, all of our trailblazer organisations, and my team for all of their hard work. It’s been brilliant too, to have such commitment and enthusiasm from across the Partnership to continuously improving what we are all trying to achieve together.
There’s a lot more to do, but I commend this Universal Framework as the next step in an important journey: to ensure that one day, everyone builds the essential skills to succeed.