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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 2, individuals will be able to work with care and attention to detail. 

In earlier steps, individuals considered how they knew when they were finding something too difficult, and when they were doing something well. In this step, the focus shifts to how to work well, starting with how to take care and pay attention to detail.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to work carefully, and ensure you are taking your time
  • How to pay attention to detail

Reflection questions

  • What does it mean to work carefully?
  • How should we prepare and what should we do during the task?
  • Can you give examples of when you have done this?
  • When do you pay attention to detail?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult?
  • Can you give examples of when you have done this well, and when you have not?

What you need to know

Working carefully before the task

Working carefully is an essential part of doing a good job. It is the only way of ensuring that we do a task as well as we can and that we make as few mistakes as possible.

It means that before we start on a task:

  • We decide that we will do the best job we can.
  • We understand what we are trying to achieve.
  • We have a good idea about how we will achieve it.
  • We have the right equipment available to us to complete the task.

Working carefully during the task

During the task itself:

  • We maintain focus by avoiding distractions.
  • We check that we are following our plan.
  • We look for possible mistakes so we spot them quickly. 
  • We ask for help if we need it.
  • We keep an eye on the time so that we are not late.

Working carefully when finishing the task

When finishing the task:

  • We look back at our work and think about whether we could make it better.
  • We might ask someone else to check over our work to give us feedback.
  • We make any corrections or improvements that we need to.
  • We share our work in the best way we can.

If we follow these steps, then we will be well setup to do the best we can do.


Paying attention to detail in written work

Something that sits alongside working carefully is paying attention to detail. This means thinking about what you are doing as you are doing it and making sure that you are getting things right as you are doing them.

It also means thinking about not just the main things you need to do in the task but all of the smaller bits too. That might include making sure that:

In written work:

  • You don’t have any spelling or grammar mistakes when you are writing something.
  • You double-check any numbers that you use or calculations that you make.
  • You check facts that you include.

Paying attention to detail in other work

In other work:

  • You read instructions carefully and don’t skip any steps.
  • You test your work before waiting for someone else to check it. 

Paying attention to detail also means thinking not just about the tasks that you are doing, but thinking about the wider things that are going on too. We often have not only our immediate task to concentrate on, but also have to be aware of all of the other things that might be going on around us. If we are not paying attention, we might easily miss something – whether we’re learning, or doing our work.


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Why this skill step matters in education

Working with care and attention to detail in education might start before you have even left your home. Checking you have the right equipment and if any work is due that day will help set you up for success. Before starting tasks, we can check that we understand what is required so that we can do the best job we can. If you are not sure, you can ask questions. If we didn’t work with care or pay attention to detail, we might end up handing in work with spelling mistakes or which is not clear enough to be understood. Even if we don’t always get the right answers, making an effort shows the right attitude to learning and will help you improve.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, working with care and attention to detail might look different depending on the job you do. However, whether you are a doctor, a designer or a mechanic, concentrating on your work and focusing on detail is what makes your work successful. Not paying attention to detail can easily result in making mistakes like sending an email to the wrong person, missing an important deadline or costing clients’ money. Clients, customers and managers expect work to be of a high standard and quality so it’s important to understand how you can work with care.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Taking care in the things we do, no matter how big or small, can make all the difference to our own sense of satisfaction and to those around us. Working with care shows us what we are capable of. Paying attention to detail shows you care and can make other people happy: you might send a message to a friend or relative who is unwell or take them to their favourite place for a special occasion. If you are planning an event, paying attention to details like who is responsible for bringing food, decorations or music will make sure that nothing gets missed.

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 of a friend or relative who you haven’t seen in a while and surprise them with a gesture that shows you care.
  • Try out a new recipe or make something new, taking care to follow all the instructions.
  • If someone asks for your help with something, make sure you ask questions to check the details.
  • Organise your work or study space so that you have the equipment you need ready and there aren’t any distractions which will stop you from working carefully.

Build this step

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the idea of what it looks like for learners to work with care and with attention to detail. This lends itself to a class discussion of what this might look like for the learners, and how they might put that into practice. 
  • Learners could work to put together some tips for working carefully, thinking about what they should do before a task, during a task, and when finishing up a task. The guidance above gives some suggestions of the approach that can be taken.
  • Learners can then put these tips into practice in completing an exercise or challenge themselves. This might be a piece of writing, designing something, or following instructions to complete a task. If time allows, trying a little bit of each can be helpful to illustrate how working carefully should be transferred into lots of settings and lots of different pieces of work. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself to reinforcement in the classroom setting. For instance, before tasks, the teacher can take learners through what they need to do to prepare to do good work, how to check their work as they progress, and how to review their work at the end. This can be reinforced through visual reminders. 

Learners can regularly reflect on whether they worked carefully and paid attention to detail.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through sustained observation, to see whether learners can work carefully and with attention to detail over a sustained time. Eventually, they should be able to do this without being reminded to by a teacher.

Build this step

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone in the workplace.

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

  • Explain what it means to work with care and with attention to detail in their context. 
  • Model what it looks like to work with care and attention to detail. A manager might show this by performing a task without care and attention to detail and then repeating this task with care and attention to detail. A manager might then compare the two examples to illustrate the difference that is made. 
  • Task an individual to create some guidance for team members on how to work carefully on a specific task. This should include thinking about what they should do before a task, during a task, and when finishing up a task. The guidance above gives some suggestions of the approach that can be taken.
  • Reflect with the individual about when they can next apply this guidance on a task

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During the normal course of work, taking the opportunity to work carefully and pay close attention to detail.
  • Working with customers or clients: When we are paying close attention to the task at hand, to provide a good service or product for our customers.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through sustained observation over time to see if an individual can work carefully and with attention to detail.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Reviewing an applicant’s previous work history for evidence of this skill step. This might be found by checking the quality of any work the individual has produced that is in the public domain.
  • Alternatively, a manager might ask for references which supply evidence of this skill step.

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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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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