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Listening

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.

Speaking

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.

Creativity

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.

Leadership

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.

Teamwork

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 10, individuals will be able identify their own skill set and those of others, and reflect that in their plans. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on setting goals, and gradually building those out into plans by identifying the tasks, resources and other people required to achieve them. The focus is now on the creation of more detailed plans.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to identify our own skills and those of others
  • How to build this understanding into our plans

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by skills?
  • What types of skills are there?
  • How can you identify your skills? How can you identify those of others?
  • Why is it important to think about skills when making plans?
  • How can you use the knowledge you have of your skills and those of others?

What you need to know

What is a skill?

A skill is the ability to do something. As you’ve seen, there are a huge variety of skills from being able to balance, to playing chess, to making or building something. We use so many skills every hour that we hardly notice them. Indeed, when we have mastered a skill, it can often seem so easy that we forget that we are doing something that other people can’t do.

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Types of skills

We can think about three broad types of skills:

  • Basic or foundational skills: These are the skills that are the foundation for everything else, and include numeracy (the ability to work with numbers), literacy (the ability to read and write) and basic digital skills (like being able to access the internet and find information). 
  • Essential skills: These are the skills we focus on in the Skills Builder Framework – those skills which we need to do almost anything, and which support the application of technical knowledge and skills. We define these as listening, speaking, creativity, problem solving, staying positive, aiming high, leadership and teamwork. However, the steps show that there are lots of smaller skills that make up these bigger themes.
  • Technical skills: Those skills which are specific to a particular subject specialism, sector or role. These are hugely diverse as a group, where some are skills held by quite a lot of people, like driving, and others that are highly specialist like writing computer code.
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Identifying skills

We can identify skills in a number of ways:

  • Sometimes our interactions with people help us to build up a sense of their essential skills and how well they can do things like listen, speak, solve problems or work with other people. 
  • We might also observe how people carry out tasks, and we can use this as a way of seeing what skills they can put into use, and with what level of mastery. This can be done in a real-life situation, or through a simulation. 
  • Interviews are another way to explore the skills that people have. This is the method used most often by companies when they are recruiting and often asks people for examples where they have used different skills to work out whether they have them or not.
  • Qualifications or certificates are a final way of identifying skills and are particularly important for some technical skills where real expertise is involved, or where there is danger if mistakes are made.
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Getting the full picture

None of these methods is entirely failsafe. People may be lucky or unlucky when you are observing them, our intuitions about people are often wrong or biased, some people are good at interviews while others are not, older certificates or qualifications might not reflect someone’s current skill level. Using a combination of approaches, though, can be most helpful in getting a sense of what someone else can do.

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Building skills into plans

A goal is something that you want to achieve, and a plan is how you will get there. Since putting a plan into action is all about doing, the ability to do is crucial.

There are two ways of thinking about skills:

  • The first is when you are setting your plans and making your goals. Back in Step 5, we explored the idea of working in your stretch zone. This is only possible if you know the level at which you are working in your skills, and so an understanding of your skills will inform how you set your goals. In this case, your plans can be informed by your skills and those of others involved.
  • The second is when your goal is already set, and you need to find people to help. In this case, you need to identify where there are gaps in the skills that you need to deliver a plan successfully. It is essential to be honest and thorough about these gaps. You can then try to find the right people to help fill those gaps.
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should ask learners for their understanding of what a skill is and work towards a shared understanding, using the definition given. Learners could share lots of examples of skills, with the teacher sharing a few to get them started – the point is that there is are an overwhelming number out there.
  • The teacher can then introduce the simple split between basic, essential, and technical skills, and ask learners for examples of each to check understanding. 
  • Learners could be asked to reflect on the technical skills that they feel they have and how they know that they have them. 
  • The teacher can then lead a class discussion about how you might identify those skills in other people, highlighting the four main ways outlined above. Learners might be asked if they have any experiences of their skills being assessed, or assessing others, using these methods. 
  • Finally, the teacher can lead a conversation about how to either build plans around those skills, or to identify skills gaps if a plan is already in place. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in the classroom by raising learners’ awareness of the skills that they are building or using day-to-day. Learners could also be encouraged to audit the skills that they feel they have built – particularly in the context of looking towards university or college applications for older learners. 

This step can also be used if learners are undertaking any sort of work experience or sustained project where they have to create and enact a plan towards a real goal. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a sustained project, where learners have to put their ideas into practice. If that is not possible, learners could be encouraged to audit their skills, and then think about the skills that would be needed elsewhere if they were to achieve different hypothetical goals as part of a team.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who can help the team to succeed by making plans to achieve goals, and who allocate roles within those teams. 

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it is important to consider your skills and the skills of those around you when making plans. 
  • Model how to identify skills in order to reflect them in plans. At this point, a manager can introduce the simple split between basic, essential, and technical skills, providing examples of each to aid understanding. They could then explain the four ways of identifying skills described above.
  • Task an individual on an exercise which is about them identifying their own skills. To achieve this, individuals might ask others for feedback on the essential skills they’ve seen them demonstrate and brainstorm a list of technical skills they’ve developed since joining the company.
  • Reflect with the individual about how they can create plans which make reflect their skills and those of others. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When setting goals and making plans to achieve them, with a focus on reflecting our skills and the skills of others in our plans.
  • Working with customers or clients: Using our awareness of our skills to help us achieve the best possible result for a customer.

Reviewing it:

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

  • A manager might start a discussion with an individual which is about finding out how aware they are of their skills. This might take the form of a skills audit.
  • The individual should also consider the skills of others they would want to engage with their plan, using some of the methods explained above. 
  • Following on from this discussion, a manager can observe to see how well the individual reflects these skills in their plans. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Asking an individual, during an interview, to describe a time when they have created plans that are informed by their skill set and that of others. Evidence of this skill step can be found in how aware an individual is of their skills and how their plan leverages them.
  • The individual can also be questioned about their own skillset, to see if they have a good awareness of this.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

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.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

In education there are lots of opportunities to reflect on and develop our skill set and interests. As well as using our own experience to understand our skill set, we may also receive feedback from teachers which is informed by observations in class, projects and exam results.

When making plans we can use an understanding of our skills to help make decisions. For example, we might use our exam results to help us choose to study our favourite subjects at college or university, or look for volunteering opportunities to gain more experience in a job that interests us. As well as making plans based on our strengths, we might choose to improve weaker skills by signing up for extra classes or asking teachers or peers for advice. If you have gaps in your skills, you might need support from other to help achieve your goals. For example, if you were studying Spanish and wanted to improve your speaking you could see if you know any native or fluent speakers who would be happy to practise with you.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

This step plays an important role in both day-to-day work and longer-term career plans. A clear understanding of our skill set will help us apply for jobs which we can do well and enjoy, as well knowing what support we might need to continue developing our skills. In job interviews employers are looking to find out more about your skill set and what it is that interests you about the role and organisation.

When creating plans in our work, we can make best use of the skills we have and look to others for support with the skills we lack. It is therefore just as important to be aware of the skills of others around us as it is to understand our own. A good manager, for example, will use their understanding of their team’s skill set to share out tasks appropriately and support their team to succeed and grow. As we make progress in our work and career, our skill set will grow and this can lead to exciting new opportunities like taking on more responsibility or changing location.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Everybody has a unique skill set. Sometimes, when we find something easy, we don’t even realise the strengths that we have. When we understand our skills and interests, we can make plans to utilise and improve them further. Often, we enjoy doing the things we are good at. If we enjoy fixing things around the home then we might like hobbies or jobs that involve using problem solving skills. Similarly, if we find something difficult, such as typing quickly on a computer, we might decide to learn more about it or watch a tutorial so that we can get better. As well as knowing our own skill set, we can go to friends, family or opportunities in our area for help with the things we would like to improve.

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!

  • Think about the last time someone came to you for advice? What skills were you able to support them with? How can you use this strength to create plans?
  • Ask a friend or relative to give you a ‘mock interview’. You could use a list of typical interview questions you can find online to help you. Practise talking positively about your skill set and how you plan to improve the skills you find more challenging.
  • When working on a group project, offer support by using your strengths (e.g. finding resources, making connections, writing, design, etc.)
  • Make a list of the tasks and skills you will need for your plan (e.g. a school project, work plan or occasion at home). Tick off the tasks you can complete yourself and make a note of the gaps in the skills you will need from others.

Build this step

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step