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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 3, individuals will show that they recognise and take pride when they are successful. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to work with care and attention. The shift here is to think about success criteria as an important part of being able to recognise when individuals have been successful, and then to take pride in their successes.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How you know when you have been successful
  • How can you take satisfaction in your success

Reflection questions

  • How do you know when you are successful? 
  • How can you measure success? Can you give some examples? 
  • What does it mean to take satisfaction in success?
  • Why is that important? 
  • Can you give examples of when you have done this?

What you need to know

Feeling success

In Step 1, we introduced the idea of knowing what doing well looks like for you. We looked at there being two aspects to this:

  • The positive emotional response that you get from doing well – which can include feeling happy, excited or relaxed.
  • The other signs that you are doing something well, like positive feedback, or the feeling that you are getting better at something.

This is an important starting point, but we can build off this when we think about what we mean by being successful more broadly.


Seeing success

Being successful is about achieving what you set out to do. This means that there are two parts of knowing if you’ve been successful:

  • Being clear what it looks like to do something successfully.
  • Being able to see at the end whether you have done that or not. 

We need both of these parts to know if we are successful. We can think of this as setting success criteria for ourselves – what do we need to do for us to have completed the task successfully.



For example, we might be looking to design a new product. We can only know if we have been successful if we start out by deciding (or being told) what the product needs to be able to do at the end. This might mean that it can store 1 litre of water, be dropped from a height of 2 metres without breaking, and be made out of recyclable materials. We can check against these success criteria once we have finished the product to know if we have been successful.

As another example, we might be writing a report. Our success criteria might be that it gives four different models of environmentally-friendly waste disposal, recommends the best one for us, and is no longer than two pages. This makes it clear whether we have been successful or not. 

As a final example, we might be in a competition. Our success criteria might be to reach the final and to improve on our score the last time we entered. We can know then whether we have been successful or not. 

In the previous step (Step 2) we looked at the ideas of working carefully and paying attention to detail. This is still an essential part of being successful, but it is not enough. We also need to keep ensuring that we are working towards the success criteria we have set.


Taking satisfaction in success

It is also important to celebrate and to take satisfaction when we have been successful.

When footballers score a goal, they all celebrate together and share congratulations. When projects are completed, there is often a celebration. When businesses hit their targets, they might pay people bonuses.


Pride and motivation

These are all examples of taking pride in achievements. Taking pride in achievements is vital because it gives you a reward for the hard work that usually has to go into being successful at something. Because of the effort that goes in, it is essential to balance that out by taking enjoyment from having done something well at the other end.

If we don’t spend the time to enjoy and take satisfaction in our achievements, then we feel less motivated to try hard to achieve our success criteria in the future. On the other hand, if we know that we will feel good about achieving success, then we will be more willing to put in hard work now to get that feeling later on.


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Why this skill step matters in education

We can be successful at lots of different points throughout a day and a week, as well as across a term or year. We can take pride in understanding anew topic, sharing an answer in class, trying something new, making progress, completing a project or receiving an improved result. Sometimes we will begiven success criteria from others to help us see if we have done what we setout to do. We can also think of our own success criteria like learning a new scale in music or joining a new club. Most importantly, knowing when we have been successful helps us to celebrate our achievements – no matter how big or small. Feeling proud and rewarded for our efforts is what motivates us to keep working hard.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

When we start a job, we will be given a job description which shows how to be successful in that role. We may also work on specific projects which have their own success criteria. In the workplace, there are usually check-in points across the year to review our success and progress. Sometimes these reviews might be more formal, like a yearly performance appraisal, which may lead to a promotion or bonus; other reviews can be more informal, like a regular meeting with a line manager or mentor. Taking time to feel proud of our success and recognise this, whether it’s at the end of the day, week or year, is essential and makes us feel good. We can celebrate success with our team mates, department or even our whole organisation.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In our busy, everyday lives we are always taking on new challenges and learning new things but it can be easy to forget to take stock and feel proud of our achievements. We might learn how to fix something, clear a space in our room or garden, reach a new level of a game, or run a further distance. Everybody will have their own success criteria. We can also celebrate success and achievements with friends and family like starting a new school or job, moving into a new home or passing a driving test.

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!

  • Set yourself a success criterion for your day and one or two criteria for your week. Ask yourself at the end of the day and week what you feel proud of? How will you celebrate your success?
  • Before you start a task, check what your success criteria are. Have these been set by someone else or can you try setting your own? What will you need to do to know you have been successful? Keep checking these as you are working to help you stay on track.
  • Think back to a recent celebration. What were you celebrating? What made you feel proud?
  • When you are working with a group, for example on a project or as part of a team, discuss how you can celebrate your success.

Build this step

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the idea of success and what it means to be successful. Learners might already be familiar with the concept of success criteria, and it is worth expanding on these. 
  • Learners could be given a range of scenarios and be asked to create success criteria for them. Learners might also reflect on times when they knew they had been successful and how they knew?
  • The teacher should then lead a conversation about why it is important to take pride and satisfaction from successes – not just because it is nice at the time, but because it makes it more likely that learners will feel motivated to work hard to achieve success again in the future. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself very naturally to reinforcement in the classroom. The key concept to introduce if you do not use it already is that of success criteria, which can either be set by the teacher or developed with the group of learners. 

Once success criteria are achieved, learners should be encouraged to take satisfaction in that success. Initially, this might include praise from the teacher, but the primary focus should be on building their intrinsic motivation.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through:

  • Checking whether learners are able to create sensible success criteria for themselves. 
  • Using reflective conversations with learners to explore their ability to recognise and take pride in when they have been successful.

Build this step

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone in their work.

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

  • Model taking pride in a team success to show an example an individual can follow. 
  • Explain why it is important to take pride and satisfaction from successes: not just because it is nice at the time, but because it makes it more likely that an individual will feel motivated to work hard to achieve success again in the future. 
  • Task an individual to identify where they have taken pride in their successes. This might come in the format of a mind map of tasks which have clear success criteria, for example. 
  • Reflect with the individual about what it means to be successful in their role and their work environment.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When there are opportunities to reflect on successes in day-to-day work or at the completion of projects.
  • Working with customers or clients: When we receive feedback from a customer or client telling us we have been successful.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through a reflective conversation with an individual. For instance:

  • A manager might have a reflective conversation with an individual to check their ability to recognise and take pride in when they have been successful.
  • Asking whether learners are able to create sensible success criteria for themselves. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual after they perform in an assessed exercise in which they have performed well.
  • Questioning an individual about when they have been successful.

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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