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Listening

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.

Speaking

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.

Creativity

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.

Leadership

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.

Teamwork

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 identify when they need help, and find someone appropriate who can help them with to complete the task.  

In the previous step, individuals showed that they could complete tasks by following instructions. This step builds on that by introducing the idea that they might be able to seek help if they are unable to do something by themselves.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • When do I need help 
  • Who can I turn to for help

Reflection questions

  • How does it feel when you need help?
  • When do you ask others for help?
  • Who can you turn to in different areas of your life for help?
  • How do you know who the best people are to help you with different problems?

What you need to know

When do I need help?

There are times when we all find something too difficult to be able to do by ourselves.

There might be several reasons why we might need help:

  • We don’t understand something.
  • We haven’t done something before and can’t work out how to do it.
  • We are not trained to do something that might be dangerous.
  • We are in a new place.
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Think before asking for help

Before we ask for help, it is always worth taking a bit of time to think about the problem again. 

  • Are there any instructions available that might help us? 
  • Can we remember doing something like this before?
  • Can we think of any ways of solving the problem ourselves?
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Don't panic!

Sometimes when we need help, we can feel worried or upset. However, it is best not to panic – there is almost always someone who can help us.

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Who can I turn to for help?

We all have different people we know who can help us in various areas of our lives. 

In education, we have friends, teachers and other members of staff who might be able to help us if we are struggling with school work, feeling upset or finding something too complicated. 

In work, friends, colleagues or managers might all be able to help us.

Outside of school or work, we have parents and carers, wider family, other people we know in our communities as well as friends who might be able to help us. They can help us with lots of different problems in our lives if we ask for help.

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What to think about before asking for help

Before asking for help with a problem, it is good to think:

  • Why do I think this person might be able to help me?
  • Who else could I ask if they are not the right person?
  • How will I explain to them what the problem is, so that they can help me?
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Keep your options open

If the first person you think of can’t help you, don’t give up – you could ask them who they think might be able to help you instead, or you could think of other people yourself.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can talk learners through some examples of problems that they might have, which they need other people to help them to solve. This modelling can be extended to show how they think about some of those questions before asking for help (Are there any instructions available? Etc.) 
  • Learners can then talk through some ideas of the sorts of the problems that they had before with which they needed help. Are there problems in common? Who did they ask for help? These can be used to think about who might be people in the learners’ lives who they could go to for help. 
  • Learners can be given some problems to solve which need them to ask a different person for help (for example, finding out who the tallest person in the class is, finding out the history of their family, or solving a difficult maths problem).

Reinforcing it

This step can be naturally reinforced in class. For example, it could become a mantra that when learners are struggling with something, they have to ask themselves the three questions:

  • Are there any instructions available that might help us? 
  • Can we remember doing something like this before?
  • Can we think of any ways of solving the problem ourselves? 

If they still do need help, they can be encouraged to think about who the best person to ask is, and who else could help them if they can’t. 

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed through sustained observation – for example, observing the behaviour of a learner over a sustained time and whether they can identify those problems that they genuinely need help with, and then ask an appropriate person for that help.

Alternatively, an activity could be used as the basis of assessment, as suggested in the Teaching It section above with a range of problems that need different people to help (as well as potentially a couple that learners should be able to resolve alone).

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all individuals who are involved in solving problems at work. 

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

  • Discuss with an individual when they might need to ask other people to help them solve a problem. During this discussion a manager might reference some of the reasons listed in the section above.
  • Model a process to identify who is appropriate to ask for help. A manager might demonstrate by asking themselves the questions listed in the who can I turn to for help. This provide an example of how to identify these appropriate individuals. 
  • Task an individual to use this process to list three appropriate people who might be able to help them routine work problems. 
  • Reflect with the individual about how confident they feel about finding someone to help them complete a difficult task. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues:  When others are relying on you to correctly perform a duty or task.
  • Working with customers or clients: When unsure of what action to take to address an issue raised by a customer or client.

Reviewing it:

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

  • Observing an individual’s response when they are stuck on a task to identify whether they ask for help at an appropriate point. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Asking the individual to describe what they would do if they encountered a task too difficult to complete by themselves.
  • Setting a challenge that the individual will need support to complete and seeing if they ask for that help. 

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

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

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

There are times when we all can find something difficult. This maybe because we do not understand something. This can often happen when we are trying to learn something new. As a learner this can feel like a problem. As we think about the problem we have, it is always worth remembering to look back at any instructions we have been given, or thinking if the problem is like another we have had before which make help us solve it. The important thing is to not panic. There is almost always someone who will be able to help us become ‘unstuck’: a friend, a teacher or lecturer, or another member of staff.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

At work there are often many tasks to be done. It is therefore very likely, that sometimes you may feel you have a problem and need some help. When you feel like this, it is always worth pausing for a moment and thinking about who is going to be best placed to help you with this particular problem. Will a colleague be able to advise? Do you need to ask your manager for support or further training? Who will have the knowledge or experience, as well as the time to help? What if they cannot help you come to a solution? What will your next move be? As you consider your plan, the important thing is not to give up if the first person you ask is unable to help you. They might be able to suggest someone else or recommend another way of finding the answer for yourself. It will be essential that any task is completed.  

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

There is a saying ‘if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well’.  This could be any job or task in the home, in education, in your place or work. It is inevitable from time to time you will come across a problem in one of these areas. A problem may present itself and you may feel you need some help to find a solution to move forward. It is important not to panic or worry when this happens.  Instead, think carefully about the situation. Recall any instructions you were given and think about whether a parent or carer, a friend, a neighbour, a teacher, a colleague, a manager or other person we know (or even someone totally different) might be able to help you. There are many people and organisations who can offer support if we ask for help.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Problem Solving, 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 problem you have had in the past. Who did you ask for help? Why did you ask that particular person? What was it about them that meant you thought they would be able to help you at that moment?
  • Write a list of the people you would ask for help if you had a problem that needed solving in different areas of your life – consider a problem you could have at home, in education, or the workplace.
  • Consider who your ‘go to’ person is. Why do you feel they would be best placed to help you?
  • Find out about different support and advice services through your place of work, education or community who can help when you have a specific problem. There is always someone who can help you.

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