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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 imagine different situations and be able to say what it is that they are imagining. 

In the previous step, the focus was on being able to imagine different situations. This step builds on this by adding the ability for individuals to be able to say what it is that they are imagining.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why it is helpful to explain what we imagine
  • How to talk about what you have imagined

Reflection questions

  • What does imagination mean?
  • Can you think about examples of when you have used your imagination?
  • Why is it helpful to be able to explain what we imagine?
  • How can we talk about what we imagine?
  • What are some simple mistakes that we could make if we get it wrong?

What you need to know

When might we use imagination?

Imagination is about being able to think about something and being able to see it in your head. There are lots of different times that we might use our imagination:

  • When thinking about what we might do in the future.
  • Thinking about somewhere we haven’t been but might like to.
  • When thinking up new ideas or ways of doing something better.
  • When acting out situations that haven’t happened yet.

Why might we explain what we imagine?

If you imagine something, it starts in your head. However, everything in the world has started in someone’s imagination. If it had only stayed in that person’s imagination, then it would never have turned into something real in the world.

One of the best ways of sharing what we imagine is through talking about it.


Sharing what is in your head

When we use our imaginations, we have to remember that no one else knows what is in your head until you tell them. 

Therefore, you have to use lots of detail to help bring what is in your head to life for them – they will not know anything that you don’t tell them. If there are gaps in what you describe, they will use their own imaginations to fill in the other details, and so they might end up thinking about something entirely different to you.


How to talk about what you imagine

When describing what you imagine, it is helpful to give context – start by telling them what situation or thing you were broadly imagining. For example, 

  • I imagined that I was making a trip to the moon.
  • I imagined that we got a new puppy.
  • I imagined what to do at the weekend.

You can then start to give some of the detail of what you were imagining. For example,

  • I would have to travel in a huge rocket, and to wear an astronaut suit. When I left the earth, it would feel like there was no gravity so I would have to learn how to travel around without being stuck to the floor. 
  • I would like a small one, with brown fur and bright ideas. I would take it for walks every day, and teach it how to chase a ball.
  • I would go to my favourite coffee shop and get a croissant and an orange juice, then read a magazine. I make sure to get a seat by the window, so it is nice and bright, and so I can watch other people walking by. 

Without giving the context first, none of these second examples make any sense.

  • You might also want to explain how you feel – these can help people you are talking to be more interested in what you are sharing. 
  • Finally, you have to decide how much detail you want to give – you cannot describe everything, so you have to choose what is essential.

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Why this skill step matters in education

To share the ideas and thoughts we imagine we need to express ourselves. Without being able to say and describe it, our imagined ideas will only ever stay in our own head. In education we can share what we imagine with peers, teachers and mentors. When working with others, the ability to say what you imagine in detail will help your group to understand what you see too. In certain subjects you may often be asked to imagine a range of situations and share these with others.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Whether in person, over the phone or email, or when creating content, we need say what we imagine to help others understand and picture our ideas. This is a key part of team working and creation across many types of jobs. Saying what we imagine helps others to say if they agree or understand, as well as supporting them to build on our idea.

When interacting with customers, we may need to imagine how they are feeling or what they have experienced in order to support them. It may also be useful to share what you are imagining with a client so they can understand your situation.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

The ability to express what we imagine is helpful for ourselves as well as others. If we are generating ideas, we want to be able to share our thoughts. The arts are a great example of artists and writers expressing what they imagine and helping others respond to what they feel and say. However, even on a more day-to-day level we will want to talk about the future or our plans – and that requires imagination.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Creativity, 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 place, person or object (you could use a picture to help you) and describe it to someone. Include as much detail as possible to help them guess what you are imagining. They can guess by asking questions or by sketching what you describe. Were they imagining the same thing as you? How did you use language to help them?
  • Consider an event you have coming up or think about the next day/week. Ask yourself “What if…?” to imagine different possibilities, or you could ask someone else to pose the questions. For example, “What if you arrive early?”, “What if you bump into someone you know?”, “What if you achieve your goal?”. Say or write down what you imagine.
  • Think of a career or job role that you have not yet worked in. Imagine what it might be like to do this job. What tasks do you imagine you’d do day-to-day? What do you imagine your work environment and colleagues would be like? Do you imagine this to be a job role that you would enjoy and/or excel at?

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can model imagining an answer to a challenge they set the class. For example, what would you do today if school was cancelled? They should structure how to give context and then think about the amount of detail to share to make sense of what they are imagining.
  • Learners can practice this in several ways, for example:
  • Taking a well-known story or routine and then thinking about hypothetical questions about what might happen next if that story or routine was broken. What would have happened if all the buses were cancelled? 
  • Creating a scenario to get them started: what if your house was at the bottom of the sea, how would you get there? 

Reinforcing it

This step can be effectively reinforced in the classroom setting. For example:

  • The teacher could create a routine for introducing tasks where learners are going to use their imaginations. For example, “We are now entering the imagination zone”. 
  • During teaching, the teacher could use “What if…?” or “What do you think…?” questions to explore imaginative answers across different ideas. 
  • The teacher can talk about when they are using their imaginations themselves.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through verbal discussion. For example:

  • Learners can explain what imagination is and when they use their imagination
  • Ask learners questions about what they can see in their head when you encourage them to think about different scenarios.
  • Use teacher observation to watch how learners play and pretend with one another.

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who will use their ideas to help others at work.

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

  • Explain to an individual during a check-in why it is helpful to explain what they imagine to others. This explanation should emphasis why it is important to give the context before going on to describe what it was that they were imagining. 
  • Model imagining an answer to a hypothetical situation during a team meeting, for example, ‘how might we remodel our shop if we were given £20,000?’ 
  • Reflect with the individual about what opportunities they have in their work to practice use their imagination, and explain what they imagine to others.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During planning meetings when discussing what might happen if a particular scenario where to happen. Here the focus might be on the individual providing enough context to help their team mates makes sense of what they have imagined
  • Working with customers or clients: When explaining to customers the ways they might use a particular product. Here an individual can focus on describing with enough detail the context to help the customer understand their ideas.

Reviewing it:

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

  • Watching an individual describe what they can see in their head when they are discussing different scenarios with their team. Here a manager might look for evidence of the individual making clear the context of what they are imagining before describing it.
  • A manager might also ask an individual’s colleagues to supply feedback on how frequently the individual explains the different situations, events or ideas they imagine.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual during an interview process, to ask them to explain what imagination is and ask them to provide an example of when they have used their imagination at work.
  • Observing an individual during an exercise where they are required to use their imagination and explain what they imagine to other people. An individual explaining the context of their imagination (what it is they were imagining) might be taken as evidence of this skill step in action.

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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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