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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 8, individuals will show that they can set goals, and then be able to secure the right resources to meet them. 

In the previous step, individuals focused on how to set goals, ordering and prioritising tasks to achieve them. This step expands on that, by introducing the idea of having the right resources to complete tasks.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to identify the resources needed for a task
  • How to secure those resources

Reflection questions

  • What are resources? Can you give examples?
  • Why do we need resources to complete tasks?
  • How do resources help us to achieve goals? 
  • What does it mean to secure resources?
  • Does this differ for different resources?

What you need to know

Identifying the resources

Resources are those things that we need to use to complete a task. 

Lots of things can be described as resources, and we can divide them up into different categories: 

  • Human Resources: These are things that humans bring to complete a task. These include: the time and effort of people who can complete tasks, and their knowledge, skills and experience. 
  • Physical Resources: These are tangible things that we might need to be able to complete tasks. These include: machines, technology, buildings or physical spaces.
  • Financial Resources: This is the money that we might need to pay for things we might need to complete the tasks.
  • Natural Resources: These are the materials that we might need to complete the task like water, gas, minerals and lots of other things. 

We are likely to need a combination of different resources to complete a task.


Securing the resources

To turn a plan into reality, we need to know not just the resources we need, but also how to secure them. Securing them might not mean owning the resource – we might hire or borrow the resource instead for the time we need it to complete the task. 

How we do this depends on the type of resources:


How we might secure them

Human resources

  • It might be that you can provide the effort required if you have the right expertise and enough time.
  • If not, you might need to persuade other people to help you out – sometimes you pay people for their time; other times you might be able to convince them to help you without paying.

Physical resources

  • If you need special equipment for a short time, then you might be able to hire this. However, if you use up the resource through use, then you will have to purchase it.
  • In terms of space, you might be able to hire that space, or you might be able to borrow it.

Natural resources

  • Natural resources are the raw materials that you need to produce something. We usually will need to purchase these, although we might be able to recycle something already existing, or to have them donated if we need.

Financial resources

  • Financial resources are the money you need. How much finance you need will depend on the other resources that you need to secure.
  • You might be able to fund this work yourself, you might need to borrow from someone else, or if you might be able to secure the budget from your organisation if you can convince them it is a good idea.

As you can see, there are several ways to secure the resources you need. It is also worth remembering that if you can’t obtain particular resources, there might be other ways of achieving your goals without them, or by changing some of the tasks you decide to carry out.


Advice for


Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the step as an essential part of being able to achieve goals: goals are broken up into tasks, which then use resources to complete. 
  • The teacher can facilitate a discussion about the different types of resources that might be needed for different kinds of tasks, gathering ideas together in a mind map. 
  • Teacher could then model how a goal can be broken down into tasks, and then identifying the resources that would be needed to complete them.
  • Learners can work on a team challenge to take a goal and then to identify the tasks (reinforcing Step 7) and resources they need. They should share why they have identified those resources as being essential. They could be challenged to think about what they might do as an alternative if some of the resources were unavailable – could they adapt the tasks or resources?
  • This can be extended by giving learners a challenging project – for example, to organise an event. Learners could be given scope to plan the event having first identified their goal and any targets they might have (see Step 5 and Step 6). This will ground their thinking in reality and thinking about resources they could access, and how they would secure them. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in the classroom by encouraging learners to set their own goals and make plans to achieve them. This might be linked to learning goals, completing projects or broader activities. For older learners, this might be related to qualifications or college and university applications. 

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed through an extended project or challenge where learners are responsible for creating a plan to achieve a goal. If an extended project is not possible, then a shorter planning activity might be sufficient.

Build this step

Advice for


Build it at work:

This step is relevant to individuals who can help themselves to succeed by making plans to achieve goals.

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

  • Discuss with the individual the different types of resources that might be needed for different kinds of tasks, gathering ideas together in a mind map. Here, the manager might how securing resources is essential to achieve goals: goals are broken up into tasks, which then use resources to complete. 
  • Model to an individual how a goal can be broken down into tasks, and how to identify the resources that would be needed to complete them.
  • Task an individual to complete an exercise that is about taking a goal and then identifying the tasks (reinforcing Step 7) and resources they need to achieve this goal. Ideally, this would be based around a real goal for them.
  • Reflect with the individual, after they complete the exercise, about which resources they identified as essential and why.

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 identifying resources to help support this.
  • Working with customers or clients: When working to achieve a result for a customer or client, which requires careful planning first. 

Reviewing it:

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

  • A manager discuss with an individual an upcoming situation which will require them to turn a goal into plan. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual referencing some of the techniques to secure the right resources to achieve the goal.
  • A manager can also observe whether the individual is able to identify and secure resources to enact their plans.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning the individual about where they have made plans before, and secured the resources to enact those plans.
  • Setting an assessment exercise requiring the individual to develop a plan to achieve a goal and explain how they would go about delivering it. If it is not clear in their plan, an interviewer might ask questions to find evidence the individual has given consideration to what resources they need and how they might secure them.

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.

More resources

Advice for


As an individual, you might be thinking about how best to support your own essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Looking at the Universal Framework to spot skill steps that you think you need to work on. It is normally best to start from the lowest step that you don’t feel confident on, and go from there.
  • Keeping a record of the skill steps that you want to work on, and writing down when you practice them, and when you feel you are making progress.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what you are trying to do – whether a teacher, family member, manager or a peer. They can help give you feedback on how you are doing, and celebrate your progress with you.

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

  • Short activities that you can use to build the essential skills
  • Regular challenges to put those skills into action
  • Ways to record and capture your essential skills, so you can see progress and talk to other people about how you are getting on

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