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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 7, individuals should be aware and reflect on how they use creativity in the context of their wider life. 

In the previous step, individuals showed that they were aware of how they use creativity to complete their work. This step builds on this by expanding thinking about creativity into wider life as well.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How creativity is used in wider life
  • The benefits of using creativity in wider life

Reflection questions

  • What is creativity?
  • How can creativity be used in different areas of life?
  • Why is it helpful to see when you are being creative? 
  • How can you learn from being creative in different areas?

What you need to know

Different aspects of creativity

Creativity has three parts to it, as we saw in Step 6:

  • Using imagination – this is all about thinking of something that does not exist, and to be able to capture and share it in some way. This is what we explored in Step 0, Step 1 and Step 2.
  • Generating new ideas – this is about being able to harness imagination to create something new, or to improve it. 
  • Turning those ideas into something – this final step is about enacting those ideas and turning them into something – whether an action or a product.

How creativity is relevant in wider life

Creativity has uses in lots of different areas of life. For example:

  • When you plan on going somewhere, you imagine what it would be like to go there, and whether you would enjoy it or not. 
  • When you think about something you want to make, you imagine what it will look like when it is finished, and steps you will take to get there.
  • When you change a routine that you have at home, you are generating new ideas and working towards making it better.
  • You might also have hobbies or other interests which draw on creativity – things like drama, art, music, crafts or even gardening.

The benefits of using creativity

It is helpful to know when we are being creative so that we can make links between different areas of our work and lives. 

We often treat our work and our wider lives as two completely different parts of our lives, without any overlap. However, when it comes to creativity, this is a great waste – often, inspiration can cut across both those areas if we spot it.


Using ideas in different areas of life

It is important to remember that good ideas often come from unexpected places. By recognising when we are creative, we can take ideas from one area of our lives and use them in other areas as well.


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Why this skill step matters in education

Making sure that we have balance between study, work and leisure is crucial to our well-being. Creativity may be used in activities you do outside of education or when coming up with plans. Creativity can be used in all different areas of life: sports, arts, technology, cooking, reading, gardening. As well as providing an outlet for creative thinking and enjoyment, the experiences and memories we make can help to spark our creativity when we study.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

We can transfer the creativity we apply in our wider life to support ourselves to be more creative in the workplace. We can use aspects of this creativity to benefit our work, whether that be in planning informal events, starting a hobby group with colleagues or drawing on our experiences outside of work to inspire projects and build relationships.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

We may use creativity skills in hobbies, making home improvements, caring for friends and family, travel plans or fitness plans. Creativity sparks curiosity and helps us learn. We can use creativity to come up with new ideas and make improvements to our everyday lives. Sharing what we imagine with others can also help us build connections and discover new interests.

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!

  • Identify success criteria for a task you have been set or for one of your hobbies. Generate ideas for how you could improve.
  • Without buying any new ingredients, create a new meal. Where possible, try to combine new flavours together.
  • When you next watch a film or series or read a book, try to create an alternate ending or predict what might happen next.
  • Choose a messy cupboard or area at home. What would it look like if it were tidier? Generate ideas to organise this space more effectively.

Build this step

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

The teacher can start by modelling lots of the different areas of their wider lives where they use their creativity – for example:

  •      In hobbies
  •      In making home improvements
  •      In travel plans

Learners can then think of all of the different times that they use creativity in their wider lives. For example, this could include:

  •      Activities that they do outside of school
  •      When they come up with plans

Learners could then be asked to reflect on how using creativity in one area of their life has helped them in another area of their life – for example, between work and life.

Reinforcing it

There are a variety of things that can be done to support and reinforce learners’ understanding of how they use creativity across different aspects of their lives. For example, the teacher could:

  • Create a reward system that values creativity, explicitly recognising the importance of using imagination and generating something original.
  • Be explicit about when they have used creativity recently in your personal or professional life: in creating the session they are delivering, in what they cooked for dinner or what they planned to do last weekend.
  • Encourage learners to draw on what they already know and to use their memories and previous experiences to spark creativity. Be explicit that this is a way of using creativity.
  • Ask learners for reflections from what they have done outside of school to use their creativity 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through learners’ reflections. For example, getting them to complete a journal or reflection on times when they have used creativity in lots of different areas of their lives.

Build this step

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all who will use their ideas to create new things in more than one setting.

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

Explain why it is helpful to recognise the ways we are creative in different aspects of our lives. To support this explanation a manager can model an example from their own lives. This model could show how being creative in one aspect of their life has been of benefit in another aspect of their life. A manager might consider drawing examples of how they’ve been creative through:

  •      Their hobbies
  •      Making home improvements
  •      Travel plans
  •      Fitness plans

Task an individual on an exercise to interview three experienced colleagues, who have a reputation for being creative, asking them how being creative in other areas of their life can support them to be creative at work. This exercise can help an individual to recognise the benefits of creativity in the context of their wider lives.

Reflect with an individual on which areas of their life they use creativity the most

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When collaborating with others to bring something new into existence, with a focus on looking at their lives beyond work for inspiration. 
  • When speaking with customers: When looking for new ways to create a benefit for a customer, taking inspiration from experiences and lessons learnt from other parts of their lives.

Assessing it:

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

  • During this conversation a manager can ask an individual to explain how they are creative in their wider lives. A manager might also check this individual can recognise the transferrable benefits of creativity across their life and work.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Having a discussion with an individual during the initial stages of a selection process. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual showing an awareness of how creativity can be used in wider life and what the benefits are.

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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