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The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.


The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.


The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.


Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.


Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 1, individuals will be able to explain what doing well looks like for them. 

In the previous step, the focus was on individuals identifying when they were finding something too difficult. This step takes a different angle, which is encouraging individuals to identify what doing well looks like for them.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to recognise good work 
  • How to know when you are making a useful contribution

Reflection questions

  • How do you know when you have done good work?
  • How does it feel when you have done something well?
  • Aside from your own work, what else might doing well mean?
  • Why is it important to build good relationships with others? 
  • Can you give examples of where you have done this?

What you need to know

Recognising good work

In the previous step, we looked at what it felt like to find something too difficult. This is the other side, which is knowing when you are doing something well.

There are two parts to explore. The first is how you feel when you are doing something well, as it will normally give as a positive emotional response. This might feel like:

  • Calm – when you feel relaxed because you know that you don’t have to worry about something, you are not feeling too challenged. 
  • Happy – a sense of joy, gratefulness or enthusiasm because you are getting satisfaction out of the work that you’re doing.
  • Excitement – a feeling of energy and drive because you are seeing that your efforts are paying off.

Other signs of good work

There might also be other signs that you are doing well. This might be:

  • Feedback – other people might tell you that you are doing well
  • Personal satisfaction – you might feel that you are learning and getting better – perhaps because you know that you are now finding something easier to do well than you previously did. 

This combination of how you feel about the work you are doing, and the other signs that you are doing good work are both important.

It’s important to remember that doing well rarely comes from just doing the easiest possible tasks or doing as little as possible. Over time, that will stop being very satisfying and will just feel boring. You will also stop improving at things, and people will eventually stop giving you positive feedback if they don’t think you are trying very hard.


Working well with others

Although it is important, doing well is not just about our work. A part of doing well is also about how we contribute to wider tasks and support others to do well too.

Once again, we usually feel a positive emotional response from helping others and the satisfaction of seeing them do well. However, the difference is that sometimes we might not get the credit for that work because we have just supported someone else. In this case, we might not get positive feedback from other people, or see that leading directly to achieving a goal. 

If you are not careful, this might lead to negative emotions like disappointment, anger or envy. In these cases, you might look for feedback from those people that you have helped to see whether they feel that you did well. In many cases though, you will do best to take satisfaction from knowing that you helped someone else to do well, and that you have learnt something worthwhile in the process.


Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

At any stage in education, it’s important to recognise when we are doing good work and how this helps us learn. We might feel personal satisfaction when we understand a new topic or improve something we have been working hard at. We might also receive positive feedback and signs that we are doing well from teachers or peers, either formally at the end of a project or term, or while working. Sometimes, we also need to recognise when we are doing good work by helping others and contributing to a bigger project – like sharing ideas in your student council – and not necessarily getting direct credit for this.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Recognising our own good work helps us stay motivated at work because we can see our skills and knowledge developing. We should take satisfaction in our work and not only rely on other colleagues, managers, clients or customers to tell us when we are doing well. When working for an organisation, we might also feel satisfaction in contributing to its wider goals and projects, as we may not always receive direct recognition. Playing a part in the bigger picture helps creates a positive culture in the workplace.  

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Knowing when we are doing something well helps us to feel positive; we might be calm, enthusiastic and motivated because the effort we make pays off. Everybody has unique strengths and things that they do well. Sometimes when we do something well, it can be easy not to realise it! It can be helpful to think about skills that friends and family have complimented or asked for your advice on. Realising what we do well in our everyday life for our own enjoyment can help us understand what we might like to do in education and work.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Aiming High, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • At the end of the day, pause for a moment to take satisfaction in something you have done well. If you’re not sure, ask yourself if anyone shared feedback with you.
  • If you see someone struggling and you know you can help them, see if you can lend them a hand.
  • Before you start a new task, think about what you will need to do that task well. For example, setting out all your ingredients and equipment and checking the recipe before cooking a meal or removing any distractions before studying or working.

Build this step

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the idea of what it looks like to do well, and the associated idea of ‘trying their best’ which might work well with younger learners. The teacher can model an example for the learners and then ask them for their examples.
  • The teacher can open a discussion about what it feels like to do well, and the emotions that individuals might feel – these ideas can be shared and recorded.
  • The teacher can introduce other ways that we can know that we have done well – which are outlined in the sections above.
  • Finally, the teacher can ask learners to talk about the importance of helping other people do well too, and how that helps them to do well even if they don’t get as much recognition for it.  

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself to easy reinforcement in the class, by putting the focus on when learners have been pushing themselves to try something that stretches them and which achieves a good result. Learners can be encouraged to take satisfaction in their own immediate achievements, and when they have supported others to achieve something too.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of learner behaviour and whether they are able to take satisfaction in their achievements. This can be explored further through reflective conversation with learners.

Build this step

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone with responsibility for their work.

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Model some of ways an individual might find out they are doing a good job. Here a manager might reference the internal signs which tell someone they are doing good work, such as the emotions, as well as external signs such as meeting performance standards or metrics. This might lead to a discussion about the ways good work is recognised that is specific to your work environment.
  • Discuss with the individual the importance of making a useful contribution. This might expand to supporting the individual to reflect on the importance of helping other people do well too and how that helps them to do well even if they don’t get as much recognition for it. 
  • Task an individual to collect feedback from their colleagues on their work performance, to help them understand when they have done good work.

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: During the course of our work when our colleagues are relying on us to help get a job done, taking the opportunity to take satisfaction from our achievements.
  • Working with customers or clients: When we are trying to provide the very best service or product for our customers, with a focus on stretching ourselves to achieve the best result.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through discussion and observation. For instance:

  • A manager might observe an individual to look for evidence they are able to take satisfaction in their achievements.
  • This can be explored further through reflective conversation with the individual.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Asking questions during an interview that require an individual to describe a time when they have performed highly in their work.

Build this step

Advice for


We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

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Advice for

Parents & Carers

At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including:

  • Talking with your child about the essential skills, what they are and how they are useful in all
    aspects of life, whether at school, home or in the workplace
  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own work or wider life
  • Helping your child to identify where they already build their skills at school, at home or
    through other activities and clubs
  • Praising your child when they show they are using the skills well, and helping them to feel a
    sense of achievement
  • Encouraging them to recognise and talk confidently about their skill strengths with others, and
    supporting them to develop their skills further

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