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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 when faced with a problem, they can find the information they need themselves to complete a task.

In earlier steps, the focus was on completing tasks by following instructions, finding someone who could help if they were stuck, and articulating a problem to them. This step builds on this by encouraging individuals to think about how they can find information themselves to help them complete a task.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to identify extra information that is needed
  • How to find this additional information 

Reflection questions

  • What is meant by ‘information’? 
  • When might we need additional information to solve a problem? 
  • How do we know what information we need?
  • Where are some of the different places you might find extra information?
  • Which are the best places for different types of information?

What you need to know

What is information?

Information is another word for knowledge, and focuses typically on facts or things that we can know to be true.


Identifying additional information needed

When we try to complete tasks, one of the problems we can sometimes run into is that we don’t have enough information. For example, if we were going to plan a party we might need to know information like:

  • Where might we be able to have the party?
  • How many people we want to invite? 
  • What catering might we need? 

Or, if we were going to plan a trip, we would like to know information like:

  • Where is good to visit?
  • How would we get there?
  • What transport arrangements would we need?

Asking the right questions

In these examples, and many others, when completing a task, we might want to ask questions to be clear on what information we need. Some of this information we will have already – for example, you might already know that you want to visit a particular town and that you have a car available to you. In this case, the question that you have not resolved is the route to get there.


Where to look for additional information

Different types of information can be found in different places. For example:


Where it can be found

Facts or dates

For significant events, this information can be found in an encyclopaedia or using online search, or a site like Wikipedia. If using an online search, it is always worth checking a couple of places to make sure the facts you have found are correct.

Directions or routes

To plan a journey, you can use a map, although this requires some additional map-reading skills. You could also use online maps, which can suggest the best route for you. Be sure that the directions are taking you the right way though. 


To build something, you can try to find an instruction manual. Alternatively, similar information might be available online. 


Knowing where to look

There are lots of other types of information that you might need to complete a task. If there is no one to ask, a good starting point is to use an online search. 

However, in some cases, the information we need is not written down anywhere – instead, we have to ask other people for the information, or do research ourselves to find it out. This is something we look at more in later steps.


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Why this skill step matters in education

In education, we are often set tasks by teachers or lecturers and there is a clear expectation that we complete those tasks fully. However, we can sometimes find that we do not have enough information to complete it. When this happens, it is important that we make the effort to find the extra information we need and not just hand the task in incomplete. We can find out more by thinking about the problem and looking in different places, such as in books, magazines or searching online for key facts, dates or instructions. We might need to ask questions of our teachers, lecturers, friends or others to get further information.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Just as in education, at work you may find in order to complete a task you need to gather more information. As you work on a task, questions may begin to form in your head. You need to be clear what extra information you need. Then, you can go about finding it. You may be able to do this by reading instructions or training materials, perhaps online, or searching back through emails and other communications. Sometimes the extra information can be gathered from a colleague, a manager, a customer or a client by speaking with them.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

Depending on the task you have to complete, there are lots of types of information you might need: Dates, times, costs, sizes, names, addresses and much more. If there is no one to ask, for some information you need, a good starting point can be an online search. However, it is always worth checking that the sites you access are reliable sources of information.

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!

  • Imagine you are planning on taking a trip to visit another city in the country. What will you need to know to successfully plan for the trip? Make a list of all the questions you will need to answer and where you can find that information if you don’t have the answer straight away.
  • Plan a small event for a family or friendship group. Make a list all of the things you will need to know to complete the task. Have a go at answering as many of the questions as you can. For any that you do not know the answer to, consider where or how you can get that information. Will you need to ask someone? Do some research? Will you be able to complete the task?
  • Create a ‘how to’ guide or poster to help others to remind them how to complete a task when they need to find extra information for themselves.

Build this step

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can start by modelling how they might think through a problem, identifying what they need to know to complete a task. They might break this down into questions that they need to be able to answer, and then answer those questions they can. This leaves the unanswered questions, and therefore the extra information that is required. 
  • Learners can then be taken through this process in a structured way for themselves, either working by themselves or in pairs. They might be given a task to complete like planning an assembly or to writing a recipe book as a class. They should identify all the things they need to know to complete the task. They should then answer as many of those questions as they can, leaving the extra information required. They can then seek this information themselves.
  • This activity can be repeated with a different task and with a lower level of scaffolding as learners become more confident in how to use the approach. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to being used and reinforced in the classroom. For example, learners can be introduced to seeking out extra information themselves to complete tasks, and these opportunities can be structured into lots of learning. 

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed by setting a task for the learners. The learners can be set a task to complete that requires them to identify and then seek out information from a range of readily available sources to complete the task. 

The assessment can focus on those who can locate the information they require to complete a task, what of that is extra information, and then being able to find that information.

Build this step

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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 where an individual might look to find missing information they need to complete a task. During the discussion, the manager can tell the individual about different types of information and where these can be found.
  • Model how to ask questions to find information to show how this process can help with completing a task. Through the demonstration a manager might identify the questions they to answer and those they cannot to show what extra information is needed in order to complete the task.
  • Task an individual to brainstorm the questions they might need to ask themselves in order to complete a task they have been set. 
  • Reflect with the individual about how confident they are at locating information they are missing to help them solve a problem. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During times when colleagues aren’t available to help but other team members are relying on you to complete a task.
  • Working with customers or clients: When completing tasks to service a customer’s request.

Reviewing it:

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

  • Questioning an individual to find out if they can identify the information they to know in order to perform a task. 
  • Observing an individual as they work on a task which requires them to source more information to identify whether they find this.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during an assessed exercise. The individual can be set a task to complete that requires them to identify and then seek out information from a range of readily available sources.

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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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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