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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 0, individuals will be able to recognise when they are feeling positive or negative. 

This is the first step in the skill of Staying Positive – the ability to identify emotions that are mainly positive and those that are primarily negative in themselves.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What emotions might feel positive, and what might feel negative
  • Why understanding feelings is important

Reflection questions

  • What is an emotion?
  • What do we mean by feeling positive?
  • What do we mean by feeling negative?
  • Why do we have emotions?
  • How can we use our emotions to help us?

What you need to know

What are emotions?

An emotion is a strong feeling that is caused by something that is happening. There are broadly two different types of emotions:

  • Positive emotions: These emotions make us feel good, and that we want to continue to feel like this. We might describe ourselves as being happy, excited or calm. 
  • Negative emotions: These emotions make us feel bad, and we want to stop feeling like this. We might describe ourselves as feeling sad, angry or scared. 

Positive emotions

Lots of different things cause our emotions, and here are some examples of emotions that we might feel (of course, there are many more):


  • Joy
  • Grateful
  • Optimistic 


  • Amused
  • Energetic 
  • Inspired


  • Kind
  • Loving 
  • Relaxed

Negative emotions


  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up


  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset


  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened

Recognising your own emotions

Do you think you can recognise when you feel these different emotions? Sometimes it can help to talk to someone else you trust when you feel positive or negative but can’t work out exactly what it is that you are feeling.


Changing over time

In life, we will feel different emotions at different times. This is a normal part of how we think about what is going on around us. Sometimes our feelings change quickly, and other times we might feel the same way for a longer time.


Why emotions are important

It can be confusing and challenging if we feel negative emotions without understanding what we are feeling. However, if we can work out what the cause is, then we can often do something to change that feeling. For example:

  • If we feel tired, then we can rest.
  • If we feel disappointed, then we can either try to fix the situation or look for something exciting to do instead.
  • If we feel angry, we might need to take some time to calm down, and then we can talk to the person who has made us angry or help to fix the situation.
  • If we feel scared, then we might be able to speak to someone about what we are afraid of, and we find some ways of making that better.

If we take the time to think about how we are feeling, we can start working out how to change our feelings from negative to positive.


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Why this skill step matters in education

How we feel can change how we speak and behave. Whether we feel a positive or negative emotion can have an impact on our ability to take in, use or remember information. A negative emotion, such as feeling worried, angry or sad about something, may make it difficult to concentrate to learn something new, or enjoy an activity. When we feel happy, well-rested and energised - any positive emotion - we may be keen and eager to learn. It is important to know both our positive and negative feelings and be able to give those feelings a name so that we can talk about them and find ways to support our learning.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

During a typical working day or week, we may experience a whole range of emotions – both positive and negative. How we feel can affect how we look, speak and work with others – whether we smile and look relaxed or whether we looked stressed and miserable with our colleagues, our managers, our customers and clients. Some negative emotions can make it more difficult than others to deal with and it is important to understand the effect we may behaving not only on our self and our own work but on others too in the workplace. Being able to name, describe and talk about our feelings can help us to make sure our work and our mental health is not affected by any negative emotions.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

At different times and in particular situations, we may feel a more positive or negative emotion. Before going on holiday, we may feel very excited. Minutes before we have to leave the house to get to an appointment, we may feel unhappy or even a little cross if we are enjoying an activity already. How we feel is likely to affect how we behave. In order to treat others the way we would wish to be treated ourselves and to achieve the things we want to do; it is important to recognise how we feel. The first step to being able to deal with our feelings is to be able to recognise the positive or negative emotion and be able to name and talk about how we feel.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Staying Positive, 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!

  • Before you go to bed each night think back to the day you have had and identify the different emotions you felt.  Make a list of both the positive and negative emotions you felt and think about the reasons why.
  • Write about or draw your emotions – both positive and negative.
  • Listen to your favourite music – think about how it makes you feel.
  • Create playlists of music to cheer you up when you feel sad, or for when you need to relax and calm down, or for when you need to feel energised and motivated.
  • Talk to a trusted person, a friend or family member about how you are feeling.

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

The teacher can introduce the idea of emotions, and ask learners to think about occasions when they have felt positive or negative emotions. If it doesn’t come up naturally in the discussion, introduce the three broad types of feelings for each of positive and negative:

  • Positive: Happy, Excited, Calm 
  • Negative: Sad, Angry, Scared 

Ensure that learners understand what each of these mean. They could then be asked to come up with ideas of when they might feel those different emotions.

This activity could be extended to a set of different hypothetical scenarios with learners identifying the feelings that they might feel in each of those. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in different ways, depending on the age and context of the learners. In a primary school setting, learners could regularly check in on how they are feeling at different times throughout the school day.

In a secondary school setting, the use of a reflective journal or other personal space for reflection on learners’ feelings might be appropriate.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through discussion. For example, asking learners to identify different positive or negative emotions that they might feel, and in what situation they might experience them. This sort of assessment has to be managed carefully. The focus should remain on whether learners can identify when they feel positive or negative.

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Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to everyone in their working lives.

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

  • Discuss with the individual the range of emotions they might feel in the workplace. During the discussion, the manager might model how to recognise whether these emotions are positive or negative.
  • Task an individual to identify the emotions they’re likely to feel in a certain scenario. 
  • Reflect with the individual on how to manage negative emotions in the context of the workplace. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: Identifying when they are feeling negative emotions, and managing these. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When facing challenges with customers or clients that might lead to negative emotions.  

Reviewing it:

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

  • Asking an individual to identify the different positive or negative emotions that they might feel and when they might experience them.
  • Discussing the strategies an individual uses to manage those emotions in the workplace. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Asking an individual to reflect on their experience of taking part in an assessed task. As part of this exercise they could be asked to describe their emotions. An individual’s reflections can be checked for evidence of this skill step.

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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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