Explore Framework
News & Blog


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 12, individuals will show that they can identify risks and gains from opportunities, and then develop plans to mitigate those risks and deliver the gains. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to identify risks and potential gains from a project. This step expands on this by also considering how to create plans to manage those risks and gains.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to mitigate risks 
  • How to use risk registers, and address risk aversion
  • How to realise gains

Reflection questions

  • What does it mean to mitigate risks? Can you give any examples?
  • How can we ensure we realise the gains of a plan?
  • What is risk aversion? How can careful planning help to overcome risk aversion?
  • Have you got any examples of having done this?

What you need to know

Mitigating risks

In the previous step, we identified risks as those things that which could happen and which would have a negative effect if they did.

Identifying potential risks is important, and it can be helpful to identify the probability of them occurring as well as the strength of effect that they would have if they occurred. In the previous step, we saw that this could be done in a couple of ways:

  • Either as a financial calculation of the impacts in financial terms multiplied by the probability of that happening
  • Or scored according to the likelihood of happening multiplied by the impact, perhaps with each scored out of 5 giving a total score of 25

This sort of calculation is important so that we can prioritise which are the most important risks to mitigate.


Actions to take

Mitigation is what actions you can take to either:

  • Reduce the likelihood that the risk event will happen: This might include planning or training for team members, or putting in additional safeguards.
  • Reduce the impact if the risk event happens: This might include by creating back-up options which reduce the level of loss as you can switch more quickly to an alternative.

What is a risk register?

For bigger projects or organisations, there is normally something called a risk register, which is where the project manager keeps a record of:

  • The main risks that the project faces.
  • The probability of each of those risks happening.
  • The likely impact if they do happen.
  • The mitigating actions that are being taken.

The importance of review

This document is something that should be reviewed regularly as the project develops or circumstances around the project change. This is a good way of ensuring that we keep thinking about what could go wrong – which can easily be forgotten about if we are busy putting a project together.


The benefits of a risk register

The other use of it is that as humans, we tend to be risk-averse. That means that we avoid risks even where, on balance, the expected gain outweighs the expected risk.

A good risk register can help to understand these risks more clearly, and so support a rational balancing of risk and potential gain rather than just a ‘gut feeling’.


Realising gains

The other side of a project, and the main motivator to undertake it is the gain that is expected. In the previous step, we explored how to identify and value the gains that might accrue to a project.

However, as a project runs, it is likely that we will learn more new things and therefore that we will have an evolving view about the gains of the project and what we expect to happen. It is important that as a project evolves, there continues to be regular points where we check in to see that we are still on track to make the gains that we expected.

New opportunities might also come up, which are worth adapting our approach to realise as well. Therefore, as we progress, we should not only be keeping an eye on the evolving risks but also ensure that we are capturing the gains as well.


Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

In education, if we consider learning to be the gain, it is important to have regular opportunities to reflect on the learning experience to date. Identifying any gains made – the progress of the learner - is essential. It will enable both the learner and educator to celebrate these positives and also to consider the next steps. Being able to note any potential risks to future learning will enable plans to be put in place from the outset to best support the learner to manage them.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Identifying potential risks is important for any business, large or small, as decisions are made. It can be helpful to identify the probability of them occurring as well as the strength of effect that they would have. The decision makers, often managers or senior leaders, can then prioritise which are the most important risks to mitigate. In larger organisations project managers often have this responsibility and can monitor a risk register. This risk register is something that should be reviewed regularly as part of any project to be undertaken.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

When undertaking any project, be it a personal one, for example to learn a musical instrument, to get fit or re-decorate your home, or one assigned through your job role, such as improving a product or reducing costs in the workplace, the main motivation to get going on it is the gain that is expected once the project is completed. As a project runs, before it is completed, changes can happen. New learning can take place. It is therefore important that all those involved in a project regularly check in to share updates and to make sure a project is on track. New opportunities may also come up and plans may need to change – this can all be done positively if regular reviews are included.

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!

  • Create a risk register when planning a personal project. Consider the risks that the project faces, the probability of each of those risks happening, the likely impact if they do and any migrating actions you can take.
  • Find out about any free online courses you could take to introduce you to project management tools and techniques.
  • Speak to project managers or those who have this area of responsibility in their workplace.

Build this step

Advice for


Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by reminding learners of the key definitions of risk and potential gains. 
  • The idea should be built that we can affect both the probability of a risk coming to pass, and the impact of that risk. The actions that we take to reduce the probability and impact are called mitigating actions.
  • Learners can contribute ideas for different scenarios about what sort of mitigating actions might work for different risks. 
  • The teacher can then introduce the idea of a risk register and how that is used to record a project’s key risks, impacts, likelihoods, and mitigating actions. 
  • Learners could apply this to their own studies or a project of their own, developing an appropriate risk register for themselves. These can be shared and discussed as a group to consolidate learning. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced through wider studies where there is a discussion of risk and potential gains. This includes subjects like economics, business studies and humanities as well as looking at examples from current affairs.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a practical exercise where learners are given a scenario where they create a risk register in response to a particular scenario. This should demonstrate their ability to identify appropriate risks, come up with a reasonable judgement of the severity of the risk and its likelihood, and then suggest some mitigating actions too.

Build this step

Advice for


Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to individuals who have a role that includes making plans and managing associated risks.

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

  • Discuss definitions of risk and potential gains with the individual. 
  • Explain to the individual the idea of a risk register and how that is used to record a project’s key risks, impacts, likelihoods, and mitigating actions.
  • Model how to develop mitigating actions to show how to affect either the probability of a risk coming to pass or the impact of that risk or both.
  • Task an individual to compile a risk register on one of their own projects, to see the effect this has on their work.
  • Reflect with the individual about what potential difficulties they might face in producing a risk register, and how they can use that register effectively. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When collaborating on more complex projects with others, with a focus on using a risk register to help manage risks as they emerge
  • Working with customers or clients: When trying to win the confidence of the customer, using a risk register to show you have thought about the potential risks of an activity and how to control them.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation and discussion as the individual takes part in a project. For instance:

  • Through discussion, a manager might ask questions to check an individual knows what a risk register should contain. They can also observe an individual in action to see a plan being created and used

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual take part in an exercise. This exercise could be about the individual creating a risk register in response to a particular scenario. This should demonstrate their ability to identify appropriate risks, come up with a reasonable judgement of the severity of the risk and its likelihood, and then suggest some mitigating actions.

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.

More resources

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

More resources