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Your guide to Essential Skills in Apprenticeships
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Build the skills you need into your business

The Skills Builder Universal Framework provides a complete approach for building essential skills across your business.

We provide employers with tools, training, resources and deep expertise to support skills development across their outreach, recruitment and staff learning and development.

Bespoke solutions for your business:

Our employer programme delivers tools, training, resources and deep expertise to drive improvements in your business across three broad areas: recruitment, staff development, and outreach.

Each programme is bespoke to your organisation, in any industry or workplace setting. 

We’ll work together to identify opportunities to enhance what you’re already doing to build skills, or inspire new routes for essential skills development. Then, in partnership, we’ll create and implement a strategy to achieve your goals.

Support your early careers employees to build essential skills

Who we work with

Together we can unlock the potential of your organisation by building essential skills to:

An orange star icon
Drive productivity
Up-skill and re-skill employees
Attract and retain top talent
Access a wider candidate pool
Foster social mobility
Build your reputation and outreach

The Skills Builder Universal Framework is at the core of our programme for employers. It’s the leading, industry-validated approach for measuring and developing essential skills, used by over 850 organisations in the UK and beyond.

Skills Icon: ListeningSkills Icon: SpeakingSkills Icon: Problem SolvingSkills Icon: CreativitySkills Icon: Staying PositiveSkills Icon: Aiming HighSkills Icon: LeadershipSkills Icon: Teamwork

Employer Programme areas


Hire the right person for the right role

  • Identify the essential skills you need
  • Produce clear job descriptions
  • Use the right questions in your interviews and assessments
  • Assess applicants fairly and consistently
  • Give candidates helpful feedback

Staff Development

Build a skilled and inclusive workforce

  • Enable your staff to understand their skill strengths and development areas
  • Create training to develop skills across your organisation
  • Empower managers to drive skill development
  • Access expert tools and materials


Ensure essential skills for all

  • Support children, young people and those outside the labour market
  • Embed essential skills across your provision
  • Design and create new resources
  • Measure the impact of your outreach
  • Access impactful volunteering opportunities
believe that essential skills are important for success within their career.
would be more likely to apply to a role if it clearly and transparently explained the essential skills required in the job description.
of employees who benefited from learning & development using the Universal Framework believe it improved their performance, and...
felt more engaged in their work.

Essential Skills in Business

Explore the success stories of our employer partners and how they have embedded the Universal Framework into their workplace.
Explore more Employer Success Stories

Join the Skills Builder Employer Programme

The case for essential skills

Attract and retain top talent
  • 56% of UK workers would consider moving jobs for better skills-building opportunities (Skills Builder and YouGov 2023).
  • Employees with higher levels of essential skills go further in their careers, earning up to £10,200 more than those with lower levels of essential skills. 
  • By adopting the Skills Builder approach, you can attract and retain candidates with the greatest potential.
Open up a wider candidate pool
  • Presenting employment opportunities using the language of the Skills Builder Framework helps to attract a more diverse pool of candidates with the skills you need, reducing bias and barriers to entry.
  • Removing jargon can facilitate lateral movement and career progression in larger organisations and promotes social mobility beyond junior roles.
  • By implementing our transparent and objective approach, you can be confident that you’re hiring the best person for the job.
Upskilling and reskilling your team
  • Since essential skills are needed in almost every job, in any sector, and at any level of seniority, it’s important that your employees build the valuable and transferable skills that enable them to succeed in their careers. In fact, 92% of workers would like more opportunities to build these skills (Skills Builder and YouGov 2023). 
  • As people’s roles evolve, their skill sets will need to adapt. Consistent use of the Framework and regularly revisiting steps supports individuals throughout their professional lives.
  • Our train-the-trainer model provides a sustainable approach, with 89% employees engaged with the Skills Builder approach noting better job performance and a further 75% feeling more engaged with their work.
Speak the language of schools and colleges
  • 85% of secondary and Further Education institutions in England have adopted the Skills Builder Framework as the language of employability. 
  • By using this shared language, you can effectively connect with young people and ensure they relate to your organisation. 
  • Engage the younger generation through outreach programmes that help them understand how their skills translate into your roles, organisation and culture.


“Emma took the time to understand the purpose and design of our work experience programme and created tailored resources that reflected this understanding. The resources also provide improved structure and consistency with clear instructions enabling them to be utilised quickly by a wide range of colleagues.”
– PA Consulting, Outreach focus

“Recruiting managers have greater clarity about the skills they require and attempt to identify these at interview.”
– Charlotte Treverton-Jones, AKW, Recruitment focus at entry-level and management positions



Would recommend Skills Builder to a partner or colleague


Of our employer partners are satisfied or very satisfied with their overall experience with us

Join the Partnership and build essential skills into your business

Programme structure

Through the employer programme, we will work with you to create a tailored strategy for achieving excellence in essential skills development. We can also provide Bespoke Skills Support to help create tools and resources to deliver your strategy. Below we have outlined the programme elements over a year. Click on each tab for further information.

Strategic support
The Skills Builder Employer Programme includes tailored strategic support as well as a wide range of tools, resources and networking opportunities. 

The strategic support we provide will build your capacity to use the Framework independently, providing you with a clear strategy for how to develop essential skills through your programmes.
Kick off meeting
Planning meeting part 1
Planning meeting part 2
Progress check-ins
Strategic support:
Kick off meeting
Gathering the information we need to understand your programmes/provision in preparation for the Planning meetings
Strategic support:
Planning meeting - Part 1
Exploring how to embed essential skills development into a specific programme, department or across the organisation
Strategic support:
Planning meeting - Part 2
Finalising your action plan, delivery responsibilities and timelines for implementation. 
Strategic support:
Progress check-ins
Reflecting on progress towards your strategy. In each session we’ll provide additional guidance on the best next steps and check-in on progress towards our programme and business-level accreditations: The Skills Builder Impact Levels and Employer Excellence Mark.
Tools and resources
All of our partners can use any of the resources we’ve developed to support their programmes:
Interactive Framework Tool:
Full breakdown of how to build each skill step alongside reflective questions and guidance.
Skills Builder Benchmark:
Allows individuals to self-assess their own essential skills.
(Admin licences available at cost).
Skills Builder Launchpad:
Allows individuals to develop their essential skills independently by completing short online modules.
Guides, assets and materials:
Easily adaptable materials and guides to build into your programmes, including video assets.
Network Training
We provide networking, training and other opportunities to help you get the most from being part of the Partnership.
Network training series: 
Quarterly interactive group training sessions together with leading businesses to explore using the Framework to support outreach, recruitment and staff training
Access to volunteering opportunities
Impact Level Accreditation 
Skills Builder
Employer Excellence Mark

Excellence Awards
Our awards an accreditations on offer include:
Impact Level Accreditation
Showcase and verify the impact of your programmes through our programme-level accreditation and feature on our Impact Directory.
Skills Builder
Employer Excellence Mark

Celebrate and share your success by achieving a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Employer Excellence Mark.
Access to volunteering opportunities
Fun, accessible 1-hour sessions delivered online by the Skills Builder team connecting you with local schools and colleges. An excellent chance for employees to develop their skills through inspiring young people. Two sessions included but more can be added.
Bespoke Skills Support
Alongside the strategic support, we know that some of our partners also value having more support to fully embed the approach, train their teams, or develop a new offer.

Each additional day of bespoke skills support is priced at £900 per day, including preparation and delivery. Options include: 
Reviewing current provision
Measuring impact
Resource creation workshop
Developing resources
Train the trainer
Bespoke Skills Support Options
Reviewing current provision
We can either audit this ourselves and make suggestions, or we can upskill your programme team and review your programmes together.
Measuring impact
We can run a spotlight workshop to review your provision or programme’s impact measurement process, and how the Skills Builder Framework can support.
Resource creation workshop
We can run a workshop to upskill your team on Skills Builder pedagogy and practical tools available to support you in developing new resources.
Developing resources
We can also create brand new essential skills resources if you would like to commission us to do so.
Train the trainer
We can train your team on the Skills Builder approach, and build their confidence and ability to build the essential skills of your beneficiaries.


The Bronze Excellence MarkThe Silver Excellence MarkThe Gold Excellence MarkThe Platinum Excellence Mark

As you join us on the Employer programme, you will be working towards achieving organisational level accreditation to recognise and celebrate your commitment to a high quality essential skills approach across your business.

Our set of Excellence Standards define what best practice looks like in our three focus areas and are there to provide the clarity and structure you need to achieve one of our Excellence Marks. Whether one team in your organisation is embedding the essential skills in one area or there is a wider organisational commitment across all three areas, there are four levels of excellence to motivate and inspire you and your teams towards a whole business approach to essential skills.

Find out more by downloading the Excellence Mark guide below.

Download the Excellence Mark Guide

Does your Outreach provision build essential skills? You could achieve programmatic level accreditation through our impact levels. Visit our Impact Directory to explore the wide range of accredited programmes our partners offer and download the guide to find out how to get involved.

Tools & Resources

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Early Careers Programmes

Provide a structured programme of training in essential skills for your new starters with our Early Careers Training Programmes.

Find out more
An image of the Skills Builder Benchmark


Use the Skills Builder Benchmark to assess your staff’s skillset and the combined skills within your teams

Find out more
An image of the Skills Builder Launchpad


Enable your team to build their Essential Skills, independently, in their own time with Skills Builder Launchpad.

Find out more
An image of the Employers Toolkit


This free toolkit contains the complete Universal Framework, as well as the Principles for building skills effectively.

Find out more

Case Studies

The Allen & Overy logoThe Allen & Overy Smart Start logo.
Allen & Overy

Focus Area: Outreach

How they have used the Framework: 

  • Allen & Overy used the Framework to structure the content and outcomes of their Smart Start work experience for 16 – 18-year-olds. 
  • As they develop knowledge of the main City job sectors, potential career opportunities and the importance of commercial awareness, each session has an essential skill focus with the Framework guideline of what good looks like within that context. 
  • Participants reflect on their development with a mentor and record their skills progress against the Framework steps.

The Impact: 

  • Allen & Overy have received high quality quantitative and qualitative impact which can be shared with participants and the company’s network, resulting in a Skills Builder Impact Level 4 2021-22
  • These insights are also used to inform ongoing monitoring of content.

The Lloyds Banking Group logo
Lloyds Banking Group

Focus Area: Outreach

How they have used the Framework:

  • Lloyds has integrated the Framework into their schools outreach and staff volunteering. 
  • They worked with Skills Builder to create a new insight day resource focused on skills, in addition to a training and development scheme for volunteers. 
  • Following training, volunteers use the Framework to track their own professional development as they progress from assisting to leading activities with schools.

The Impact: 

  • Between 2021-2022, Lloyds successfully grew their network to hundreds of trained volunteers and delivered skills building opportunities to 1,500+ learners. 
  • Their Skills Experience for learners aged 9 – 13 has received a Skills Builder Impact Level 3 2021-22.

Hear from Ian Browne, Lloyd’s Banking Group, about their impact so far.

The Thames Water logo
Thames Water

Focus Area: Recruitment

How they have used the Framework: 

  • Thames Water used the Framework to support the recruitment of their Apprentices. 
  • By breaking down complicated competencies using the simple language of the Framework, they were able to remove barriers to entry and draw a wider talent pool to their business. 
  • They shared tools and resources to help candidates identify their essential skills before interview. 
  • The Framework steps formed their assessment criteria and provided guidance for hiring managers.

The Impact: 

  • Thames Water has seen that candidates are able to showcase their skills brilliantly at interview and it has made selecting the right candidate for the role an easier process.
The Morgan Sindall Group logo
Morgan Sindall

Focus Area: Recruitment

How they have used the Framework: 

  • Morgan Sindall wanted to develop an early careers strategy that is accessible for all. 
  • Together we mapped essential skills to 45 job role types in Nuclear, Highways, Energy & Water, and Rail across their graduate and engineering roles. 
  • The skills were added to their job descriptions and applicants were sent candidate preparation guides. 
  • Scripts with skills-based questions were used in interviews.

The Impact: 

  • Morgan Sindall received a high volume of applicants compared to previous years (668 candidates across roles). The central team believe this is due to the simplicity of the language used in the job descriptions contributing to applicants’ confidence in applying.
The London and North Eastern Railway logo

Focus Area: Staff Development

How they have used the Framework:

  • LNER’s goal was to create a consistent approach to understanding and developing skills across all staff learning and development.
  • We collaborated extensively with LNER’s Learning & Development team in the creation of their Career Journey platform. This will be used by all members of staff across LNER. 
  • The essential skills and Framework are embedded throughout the platform to create a common language for skills. This bespoke training tool enables staff to understand the requirements for their role, as well as any other roles across the business. 

The Impact:

  • Given that the Skills Builder Universal Framework is relevant to all staff roles at LNER, it has enabled all employees to create bespoke, personal development plans informed by their aspirations.
The Network Rail logo
Network Rail

Focus Area: Staff Development

How they have used the Framework:

  • Network Rail has built essential skills into apprenticeships and the Kickstart programme, using the Skills Builder Essential Skills Academy as part of their 6 month placements. 
  • Skills Builder led a 10-part training to enable participants to identify, practise and articulate their skills. 
  • Participants tracked progress on Skills Builder Benchmark and pursued independent learning through the Skills Builder Launchpad online modules.
  • We worked together with their training partner (National Skills Academy for Rail) to provide guidance and training for line managers, ensuring consistency across the placement.

 The Impact: 

  • They have been able to see participants grow into their roles and thrive in the workplace.
    One candidate who successfully secured a job afterwards noted: “Having the chance to build the essential skills has played a big role in helping me develop other abilities, build my self-confidence and improve how I conduct myself. It helped me go forward…this experience unlocked my potential and made me a more reliable and adaptable employee.” 
  • The Framework has also enabled Network Rail to re-enforce messaging on essential skills through partnerships with Engineering UK and STEM Learning (who are both Skills Builder partners).

Can the Skills Builder Framework be used to support individuals at all levels of seniority within the business?

Yes, the Framework has been created to support individuals at all stages of their personal and professional career journey. The age-neutral language and progression of steps allow an individual to reflect on what good looks like in the context of their role and decide how they can best move forward with their skills development as a result. It’s ideal for:

  • Individuals, to help them to understand their development journey,
  • Managers, to support their own skills development and as a guide to recognising and nurturing skills development in others
  • Senior leaders, to sense-check their own practice as a role model within the organisation and to encourage the setting of clear expectations for behaviour and culture.
Can I use The Framework to support just one programme or department?

The Framework can be used to support an individual programme or to create a consistent approach across an organisation. Sometimes it’s useful to identify a particular programme or department to start using the Framework with and build from there. Through the Skills Builder Employer Programme, we can work with you to identify a particular starting point or and help you to map out the key areas where the approach will add value.

How much does it cost?

You can start using the Skills Builder Framework to enhance your activities for free by accessing our online tools and resources. The easiest way to create a strategy for embedding skills development across your organisation is to join the Skills Builder Employer Programme which provides a structured series of support sessions to guide you in creating and implementing an essential skills strategy. Prices for the Employer Programme start from £1,800. Please download the prospectus or get in touch for more information.

Does it matter how big my organisation is?

No, the approach is suitable for organisations of all sizes and can be adapted to suit your context.

How flexible is the programme timeline?

The programme is delivered over a year and we will work with you to decide the best time to deliver each of the programme elements with you. The majority of organisations will take part in the Kick-off meeting and Planning meetings 1 & 2 within the first 3 months but this may be elongated or condensed if you have a particular project deadline you are working towards.

Can you help me write my programme or create tools and resources?

Yes, through the ‘Bespoke Support’ element of the programme we can provide tailored training, advisory support and work with you to design and create your programme tools and resources. This is perfect if your team is short on capacity but would love to implement best practice in key areas.

What if we already have our own competency, values or behaviour framework?

We know that many organisations already have their own frameworks and practices in place and we know that one-size doesn’t always fit everyone. The Skills Builder Framework can be used on its own, or mapped to existing frameworks to help you to identify gaps in your current provision, ensure clarity around your existing competencies and set out clear next steps for progression.

Can I get involved with a client?

Yes, many partners have collaborated on a project with their clients or community partners and used the Skills Builder Framework as a common language and impact measurement system to bring the programme together. Get in touch to find out how this might work best for you.

How does this support our social impact?

The greatest benefit of the Skills Builder Framework is that it provides a clear, age-neutral language and approach to describing and measuring the 8 essential skills. Using the Framework to create clarity and consistency within your programmes can break down many barriers to entry for those from marginalised groups, enabling them to better understand your organisation, what you’re looking for in a team and how they can progress within your organisation. Over 75% of secondary schools and colleges in the UK have a touch point with the Skills Builder Partnership, alongside educators in 10 further countries – by mirroring this within your programmes, you are ensuring that your organisation is accessible for young people and speaks the same language they have been supported to use in education.

Alongside the employer programme, we have options for you to get involved with our social value projects including working with schools and colleges, supporting non-profit community organisations and creating system-wide change through advocacy.

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