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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 will show that they can reinforce their arguments and ideas by using facts and examples effectively. 

Up to now, the focus on Speaking has been about how to speak effectively by thinking about the logical order of content, what their listeners already know, and using appropriate language, tone, expression and gesture. This next stage of mastering speaking focuses on how to speak engagingly.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • The value of using facts and statistics when speaking 
  • How to structure an opinion or argument

Reflection questions

  • What are facts, and what are statistics?
  • Why can they help structure an argument?
  • How can you build facts and statistics into speaking?
  • When have you seen this done well?
  • When have you seen it done poorly?

What you need to know

What are facts and statistics?

Facts are things that are known or proven to be true. 

Statistics are pieces of numerical data – for example, the size of a country, the proportion of people who like pizza, the number of fish in the average lake.


The value of facts and statistics

Facts and statistics are important when speaking because they provide evidence that adds truth to the argument that you are making. Proper use of facts and statistics make it more difficult for other people to disagree with you and will be more effective in convincing people that you are correct.

When used well, facts and statistics are also interesting – they might help someone to learn something new, and humans respond positively to learning new things.


Getting it right

However, any facts or statistics must be relevant to the argument that you are making or what you are saying – otherwise they become distractions. They should also be accurate, or you can quickly lose the trust of your listeners, and they stop listening to what you are saying.


Building facts and statistics into your speaking

Using facts and statistics effectively is all about using them at the right moment when you are speaking and not using them too much!

One simple structure that is widely used for sharing an argument is:

  • Opinion
  • Rationale
  • Facts or Statistics
  • How those justify your opinion

A simple sentence structure

An even simpler model is to use: [Opinion] because [Facts or Statistics].

This sort of approach is the basis of debating, where individuals talk about different topics and present different ideas or arguments about them – the team who speaks most convincingly about a topic wins.


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Why this skill step matters in education

In education, many of your opportunities to speak in front of others will be to inform or persuade the listener, for example, a talk to the class about something you have studied or a speech to persuade others to allow an event or change to take place. In these situations, the use of relevant facts and examples will make your talk more interesting and engaging, or more persuasive. By adding facts and examples into your speech, you give greater weight to your argument which in turn may build support for your point. A successful outcome will depend on how relevant the facts and examples are as well as their accuracy.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, there are many occasions when we are speaking to persuade or convince the listener. We may be trying to persuade a new client to use our services, convincing our manager that we should be allowed to work from home, demonstrating the benefits of a product to a customer. In each case, the use of facts and examples will be important and play a part in making your point. However, incorrect use, using them too much or inaccurate statements may result in your argument being seen as invalid or the listener losing interest.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world, you may need to use facts and examples to persuade a listener of your point. For example, when complaining about a broken on unsuitable product you may need to give examples of what happened. Social debate with friends can prove to be enjoyable and challenging, but your point and argument can easily be lost if your facts and examples do not support what you are saying or are unreliable. Your friends will be quick to point out inaccuracies or inappropriate examples.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Speaking, 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!

  • Listen carefully to a lesson or talk given at school, college, or work. Make a note of the examples and facts used. Reflect on each example: is it accurate? Did it convince or persuade you? Was it well-timed? Did it relate well to the point being made? Were there too many facts and examples? How could they have improved their use of facts and examples?
  • Take part in a school/college debate. Identify the possible facts and examples you could use to illustrate your point and then decide which are the most appropriate to use? Which will you leave out? Why?
  • Watch a TED Talk on the internet, about a subject which interests you. Note the use of facts and examples. Did each factor example add interest? Were there any that you thought unnecessary?
  • Listen to friends debating a topic, for example sports match, recent film, recycling. Do they intersperse their conversation with facts and examples? Are they believable?

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can start by modelling how they can use facts and statistics to back up opinions or assertions. 
  • Learners can then model a simple example of how they can use a fact or statistic to back up an opinion. This works particularly well if linked to learners’ recent subject learning. 
  • This can be built on by introducing the idea of a debate – putting learners into groups to argue for or against a particular assertion – for example, “Air travel should be banned”. The rule is that each argument that a learner makes should be backed up by a fact or statistic to add weight to their idea. For example “The environmental impact of air travel is too high because air travel carbon emissions are 2% of global emissions”. Or “Air travel is important to let people see the world – it would take three weeks to get to Australia by sea, but only 24 hours by aeroplane.” Again, this works best if related to an existing subject area.

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to reinforcement in the classroom:

  • When asking learners to share their ideas, they should be pre-warned that they will be expected to justify their opinion or idea with a fact or statistic to back it up.
  • In mathematics, when learners might be thinking about statistics, they could extend this to practising speaking about the insights that they have been able to gain through their data work.
  • Learners could also be asked to prepare a talk on a particular topic, and to present a structured answer to a question that was posed.
  • The debate approach could also be extended to other learning to explore issues in greater depth. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured activity. For example:

  • Asking learners to prepare a talk or to participate in a debate, where they have to use facts or statistics to back up their opinions.

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Build it at work: 

This step is especially relevant for those who uses verbal communication to persuade others or support others to make decisions. 

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

  • Discuss the value of facts and statistics in being engaging when speaking.  
  • Explain how to select relevant facts and statistics when formulating a verbal argument. 
  • Model how to introduce a fact into an argument and model how to introduce a statistic into an argument separately so that an individual can see the differences between the two. 
  • Set an exercise where an individual’s manager presents an argument and then asks an individual to identify what facts or statistics they would need to hear in order to be convinced by it. 
  • Reflect with the individual about situations when they have seen facts and statistics used to both good and bad effects, to help identify the traps should avoid.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During conversations with colleagues when persuading others of the merits of your idea, which might be either formal or informal conversations.
  • Working with customers or clients: When presenting an idea, answer or solution you want customers or clients to be persuaded by. 

Reviewing it:

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

  • When discussing an idea with an individual and asking them to justify their ideas or position.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

Observing an individual during an assessed exercise where they are required to put forward a case for change based on their assessment of a situation. Here we could observe for evidence that an individual has used facts and statistics in their speech
to support their position.

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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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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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