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Explore the latest skills research showcasing the powerful and far-reaching impact of essential skills worldwide. Discover research and impact reports on essential skills.

March 2024

Essential Skills Tracker 2024

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The Essential Skills Tracker 2024 shows that teaching professionals are overwhelmingly in support of building essential skills in education. These nationally representative findings, based on YouGov sampling of 1,006 teachers, reveal they have positive views on how they can be taught and It is clear that a system-wide approach to teaching essential skills is required if it is to succeed.

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November 2023

Certifying Essential Skills

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This report considers how both formal qualifications and informal certifications can effectively aid the recognition of essential skills. 

Part one provides overview of the types of qualifications and certifications that assess and recognise essential skills in the UK. 

The second part discusses how informal certifications can be used to effectively recognise informal or non-formal learning of essential skills. 

Guidance also provided for those wishing to create digital badges for participation in essential skills experiences, plus guidance on when the Skills Builder Partnership would be willing to endorse such badges. 

In the final section, we provide best practice guidelines for awarding bodies wishing to create essential skills qualifications - approved and endorsed by the Skills Builder Partnership.

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March 2023

Essential Skills Tracker 2023

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By taking a complete approach to skills, this research reveals the staggering cost of low essential skills in the UK. This contribution to the literature on the returns to skills shows how people with higher levels of essential skills have higher earnings, higher job satisfaction, higher life satisfaction and higher social mobility.

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September 2022

Trailblazer Report 2022

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This paper brings you practical insights on why and how to build essential skills into your business. It is based on years of research by professionals and academics as well as practical experience, with case studies from a range of employers that have leveraged a structured approach to skills in order to boost their recruitment, staff development & outreach.

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September 2022

The Skills Builder Handbook for Educators

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Over the last decade, the Skills Builder approach has transformed the teaching of essential skills in education systems and classrooms across the world.

Essential skills like communication, collaboration, creative problem solving and self-management having long been called for.

New evidence shows that these skills unlock learning in the classroom, boosting academic outcomes, perseverance and self-belief. They halve the likelihood of being out of work, and increase earnings across a lifetime. They even boost wellbeing and life satisfaction.

But access to these skills isn’t fair. As educators, it can be difficult to go from knowing these skills matter to how to teach them in the classroom with real rigour.

Published in full for the first time, this Handbook helps any educator to use the Skills Builder approach with their learners – whether in primary school, secondary school, college or special school.

It starts by exploring how skills are built, and the key principles that make a difference. Principles that include being transparent about the steps to mastery, working across all ages, assessing skills robustly, directly teaching core tools and concepts, and then practicing them in lots of settings.

By breaking essential skills down into teachable steps, educators can dip in and out of this Handbook to assess, teach, and practice each skill step in turn for learners at all ages and stages. In doing so, educators can accelerate learners’ mastery of these skills, and navigate them to success.

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March 2022

Essential Skills Tracker 2022

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There have long been calls for greater emphasis on essential skills, whether from business organisations, or from educators. But evidence on essential skill levels across the UK is limited.

The Essential Skills Tracker changes that. For the first time, we have a complete picture of how adults across the UK are building and using their essential skills – and where the gaps are.

In collaboration with YouGov, more than 2,200 adults completed an assessment against the Skills Builder Universal Framework. These assessments of essential skills including teamwork, communication, and creativity skills were then linked up with key demographic, job, education, and earnings data.

What did we learn? Read inside to find out.

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June 2021

Essential skills: Teachers' perspectives on opportunities and barriers

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This research piece was led by Emma Crighton, a member of our Education Team at Skills Builder. The paper channels the voices of teachers and their motivations around building essential skills for their learners. It also explores the barriers teacher face and how Skills Build can address some of these, as well as where wider policy change is needed. Speaking to teachers within and beyond the Skills Builder network, as well as seven leaders in the education sector, the insights gathered include:

  • Five key motivators for teachers when it comes to building essential skills for their learners: to prepare students for life, to support career development and employability, to unlock learning and opportunities for all, to support strategic priorities and to raise aspirations.
  • Time and a lack of training and consistent approach towards essentials skills prevent teachers from building essential skills universally. A further barrier stems from wider policy restrictions with regard to the value placed on essential skills. These restrictions include performance and attainment measures, the current knowledge-based curriculum and the reduced scope of collaboration between education institutions
  • Teachers and sector leaders suggest some possible solutions, including: increased teacher training, a redesign of the curriculum, a review of the accountability system and capitalising on the flexibility in the current system.
  • The Skills Builder partnership is seen to support schools and colleges to overcome challenges in seven key areas.
  • Whilst Skills Builder will continue to encourage teachers to tap into their motivations to teach essential skills, change is needed at a policy level to move towards a more supportive education system which places higher value on essential skills.
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February 2021

Better prepared: Essential skills and employment outcomes for young people

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This report is built off a new research study conducted with YouGov including more than 3,000 young people aged 16-24 years-old. Individuals completed a self-assessment against the Skills Builder Universal Framework, as well as sharing other outcomes data. Insights generated include:

  • That higher levels of essential skills are correlated with higher social advantage and greater levels of parental engagement, and inversely correlated with attending an Alternative Provision setting or having a special educational need.
  • Overwhelmingly, young people see the value of essential skills across key aspects of their lives for transition, including academic performance (78%), university entrance (66%), successful recruitment (91%), progression in employment (91%), and overcoming wider life challenges (89%).
  • There are strong links between higher essential skill scores and self-efficacy and perseverance of effort.
  • There is evidence of a wage premium of around 15% or £3,400 per year for full-time workers aged over 19 moving from the 1st percentile of skills score up to the median. This wage premium is substantially increased in cases where young people report confidence in applying their essential skills in a range of scenarios. In this case, the wage premium for those individuals rises to £10,200.
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January 2021

Essential skills and their impact on education outcomes

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This report is built off new analysis of the British Cohort Study, creating proxy measures for essential skill levels when individuals were aged 10- and 16-years-old in 1980 and 1986 respectively. The analysis sought to test five hypotheses, by linking together datasets around the British Cohort Study (1970). In doing so, we found that higher levels of self-reported essential skills levels are associated with:

  • Higher levels of literacy at primary school, as measured by the Edinburgh Reading Test
  • Higher levels of numeracy at primary school, as measured by the Friendly Math Test
  • Higher levels of mathematics qualifications at secondary school, as measured by O-Level and CSE results
  • Higher academic performance, as perceived by teachers
  • Higher levels of career aspiration
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October 2020

How do essential skills influence life outcomes? An evidence review

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This report was written by the Centre for Education & Youth with the Skills Builder Partnership, and reviewed existing robust academic studies exploring the links between essential skills and wider life outcomes. The report highlighted evidence of three links:

  • That essential skills support academic outcomes, particularly through the focus on self-management skills of Aiming High and Staying Positive, as well as communication skills of Listening and Speaking.
  • That essential skills support positive employment outcomes, including higher wages.
  • That essential skills support social and emotional wellbeing, as well as preventing negative behaviours.

Where studies in this review explored the features of effective delivery, they indicated that essential skills interventions tend to be more effective when regular, long term, explicit, embedded, structured, supported and targeted.

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May 2020

Towards a Universal Framework for Essential Skills

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This report brings together analysis of the Skills Builder Framework and how it could be extended to act as a universal framework – equally relevant to individuals at all stages of their education or careers. Developed as part of the Essential Skills Taskforce, the work reviewed the completeness and relevance of the existing Skills Builder approach through four comparative lenses:

  • International examples of employability frameworks
  • Job advertisement data
  • Apprenticeship standards
  • Universities’ graduate attribute statements

The framework was the tested through a series of roundtables with employers, educators, and other individuals to ensure that it was not only rigorous but usable. The final result was the Skills Builder Universal Framework.

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October 2017

The Missing Piece: The Essential Skills that Education Forgot

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This book was written by Skills Builder’s founder, Tom Ravenscroft, reflecting on the lessons learned over the organisation’s first eight years. Drawing on experience and the broad literature around education and skills development, the book explores:

  • The gap between the apparent need for essential skills and how they are built in the education system.
  • The myths and misconceptions about skill development that hold us back.
  • Which skills are truly essential and how they can be defined and broken down.
  • The principles for building skills in different settings.
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September 2017

Enterprise Skills: Teachability, Measurability, and Next Steps

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This report, written by LKMco (now the Centre for Education & Youth), reviewed the evidence around enterprise education and the best-practice principles developed by Enabling Enterprise (now Skills Builder Partnership). This evidence review was complemented by a roundtable in January 2017, and five case studies of primary and secondary schools using the approach around the country.

The report highlighted that:

  • Evidence suggested that specific skills could have a positive impact on the development of young people, and schools felt that there were positive effects on academic performance.
  • Skill development can be measured and tracked, and schools were using the Skills Builder Framework as a useful tool in this regard.
  • There are differences in essential skills by socio-economic background and if unaddressed these gaps could persist throughout education.

The report highlighted priorities to:

  • Build consensus around the language of essential skills, bringing greater coherence to work taking place across the education sector.
  • Promote ways of assessing essential skills that provides useful feedback for pupils and their teachers, helping young people’s ability and confidence in these skills grow.
  • Develop a rigorous evidence base exploring how these skills vary by children and young people’s backgrounds, and what works in closing any gaps that appear.
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November 2023

Impact Report 2023

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This year marks Skills Builder’s 15th anniversary and we have continued to see incredible growth all across the partnership.

Our Impact Report 2023 combines all of the collective impact that has taken place over this milestone year. Our 900 partners continue to have far reaching impact across the globe, delivering more than 2.6 million high quality interventions in 2022-23:

  • Employers: 101 employers were part of the Partnership in 2023, with 53 working towards our Excellence Standards by embedding Skills Builder across their outreach, recruitment, and staff development.
  • Education: 18,991 teachers have been trained and built the essential skills of 240,991 students. 87% of UK secondary schools and colleges have a touchpoint with the Partnership.
  • Impact Organisations: 222 impact organisations delivered over 2.3 million high-quality opportunities to build essential skills through youth work, the arts, careers and employability training, STEM activities, sports and more.
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November 2022

Impact Report 2022

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It's been another transformative year for Skills Builder Partnership and the culmination of our three year strategy beginning in 2019.

Our Impact Report 2022 celebrates the collective impact that the 841 partners who make up the Partnership are continuing to have, and shares the growing reach and impact of our shared work, delivering more than 2.3 million high quality interventions in 2021-22:

  • Employers: 120 employers were part of the Partnership, with 55 working towards our Excellence Standards by embedding Skills Builder across their outreach, recruitment, and staff development.
  • Education: 15,669 teachers have been trained and built the essential skills of 202,497 students. Students in partner schools doubled the rate of essential skill development against peers. In the last year, 87% of UK secondary schools and colleges have a touchpoint with the Partnership.
  • Impact Organisations: 214 impact organisations delivered 2.06 million high-quality opportunities to build essential skills through youth work, the arts, careers and employability training, STEM activities, sports and more.
  • Products: Our four products for individuals and teachers to assess and build essential skills were used by a further 96,390 active learners.

This year, we grew our international work, with programmes running in ten countries, and our products used in many more. Together, we are driving global change to achieve our shared vision: one day, everyone will build the essential skills to succeed.

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October 2021

Impact Report 2021

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It has been a breakthrough year for the Skills Builder Partnership, and I’m excited to be able to share our 2021 Impact Report. The year has not been short of challenges on many fronts and for many of our 725 partners. We have all been affected by the pandemic and lockdowns.

At the same time, the work we do supporting everyone to build their essential skills has never been more important. These skills matter for children who have spent months isolated form their peers. They can support young people struggling to manage examinations and completing school or college under huge uncertainty. They are a vital for individuals navigating huge change in their workplaces or wider lives.

Our research publications this year have highlighted that all too often essential skills are correlated with demographics and opportunities to build them are not fairly distributed. At the same time, boosting essential skills is correlated with better school performance, higher self-efficacy and career ambitions, and with a substantial wage premium.

In the Partnership, we are all keenly aware of the urgency of what we are doing. So I am encouraged that despite the circumstances, the Partnership has made huge strides towards our mission, across all of the different strands of our work.

As a result, the Partnership has delivered 1,468,611 opportunities for individuals to boost their essential skills this year. This combines the 187,783 individuals who built their essential skills through programmes that were run in schools and colleges by our central team. It includes a further 65,504 who benefited as individuals from our products. However, it also includes the wider impact of 1,215,324 opportunities for individuals to build their essential skills through approved programmes of partners.

This is a significant step forwards for our collective reach – a total more than four times that of the previous year. We are also seeing meaningful progress on our national reach: through the Partnership, more than 75% of UK secondary schools and colleges now have some use of the Skills Builder approach. We are ambitious for the coming years. We are piloting our work in seven countries in the coming year, as well as expanding to the other home nations of the UK. Our work with employers is growing quickly, with 25 employers now embedding the Skills Builder approach into how they hire and grow their staff, helping to level the playing field and ease transitions into work.

We have a long way to go, but I’d like to congratulate all of our partners on an incredible year and an important step towards our shared mission.

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November 2020

Impact Report 2020

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It has certainly not been the year that we originally planned for across the Partnership, but the pandemic has demonstrated our collective determination and resilience.

One of the biggest shifts for us this year has been the launch of the Skills Builder Universal Framework - a collaborative effort over 18 months, developed with the CBI, CIPD, Gatsby Foundation, Business in the Community, Careers & Enterprise Company and the EY Foundation. This has helped to better join up all of our efforts and provide a complete journey for any individual to master their essential skills.

We have seen continued strong growth in impact across all three strands of the Partnership:

  • We supported 437 schools and colleges to embed the best practice principles for building essential skills that we have honed over the last decade. This included training more than 9,000 teachers, and reaching 176,000 students.
  • We saw a growing number of our 92 employer partners using the Framework in their outreach work, their recruitment processes, and how they train and develop their apprentices and wider staff teams.
  • We also partnered with 105 impact organisations. The organisations in the Partnership gave 115,203 more individuals the chance to identify, review, and practice essential skills.
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November 2019

Impact Report 2019

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This year, we celebrated 10 years since we got started as Enabling Enterprise back in 2009. Over that time, our work has constantly evolved, to where we are today as the Skills Builder Partnership. We made the shift because working together and combining our efforts is by far the best way to ensure that one day, everyone builds the essential skills to succeed.

Across the three strands of the Skills Builder Partnership, the headlines are:

  • We directly trained and supported 514 schools and colleges last year - that’s more than 130,000 children and young people empowered to build essential skills through our programmes.
  • Employer partners have always been a critical part of our work, hosting trips, supporting programme design and funding our work. This last year, 121 supported us in this way. We’re excited that a growing number are expanding their work, building the Skills Builder approach into how they recruit, train and support their own staff.
  • We worked with 59 impact organisations including the Careers & Enterprise Company, the National Literacy Trust, and the British Council. Together, we’re using the shared language and outcomes of the Skills Builder approach.
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Impact Report 2018

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This 2018 Impact Report captures a transformational year for Enabling Enterprise. In our ninth year, we have worked with more students than ever before – with 95,938 students completing one of our programmes this year. It’s great to see that even as our work continues to grow, we have been able to maintain the impact of our programmes at scale.

This year has seen a big shift in broadening our work beyond our existing partnership of 335 schools and 130 employer partners. In October 2017, The Missing Piece: The Essential Skills that Education Forgot was published by John Catt Publishing, drawing together the evidence base and what we’d learnt in ensuring that every child and young person builds the essential skills to thrive.

Then, in May 2018, we launched the Skills Builder Framework and the Partnership behind it. The Framework is the culmination of more than four years work and takes the eight essential skills and turns breaks them down into teachable, measurable chunks. The process of refinement benefited from the expertise of more than sixty individuals and piloting in twenty organisations. As we enter our tenth year, the organisation goes from strength to strength: we are seeing a surge of interest and excitement from schools across the country in building the essential skills of their students, and the Partnership is growing by the day.

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November 2017

Impact Report 2017

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It’s a huge pleasure to be able to share our Impact Report for 2017. The last year has seen our partnership take a meaningful step forward towards achieving our mission.

Our programmes have continued to grow quickly, with over 87,000 students across the country taking part in an Enabling Enterprise programme in the last year. That is almost double the number just two years ago.

This year we passed a milestone, with over 250,000 student programmes now completed over the seven years of Enabling Enterprise.

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