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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 2, individuals will show that they can keep trying when something goes wrong. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on identifying emotions in themselves and others. This is an essential precursor to being able to manage the emotional response to give up when something goes wrong, and to keep trying instead.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Our emotional responses when something goes wrong 
  • How to overcome the urge to give up, and instead to keep trying

Reflection questions

  • How do you feel when something goes wrong?
  • Can you give any examples?
  • Why might negative emotions make you want to give up?
  • How can you try to keep going instead?

What you need to know

When things go wrong

None of us ever want something to go wrong for ourselves. Unfortunately, in life, there is a huge amount that is far beyond our control, and so it is inevitable that somethings things go wrong.

These might be small things – a cancelled train or bus, a letter getting lost in the post, or losing something. Or they might be much more significant things – the death of someone we know, the loss of a job, or becoming ill.


How we feel when something goes wrong

When something goes wrong, we swing into feeling negative emotions that we have been looking at already:

Negative emotions

The effect 


  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up

It is normal to feel deflated when something bad happens. We might want to give up or that we have lost energy for continuing to try at something. We might feel that there is now no hope of success. 


  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset

We might feel angry if we feel that it was unfair that this setback happened. Perhaps we feel that someone else was to blame, or that we are being unfairly punished for something. We feel an energy to try to put it right or get some sort of justice or fairness back.   


  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened

Alternatively, we might feel scared. Perhaps we now don’t know what to do next, or feel that if something bad has happened once, then more bad things might happen soon. 


Not letting emotions overwhelm us

It is important to recognise that it is very natural and normal to have a strong emotional response to something going wrong. Sometimes, we will have a combination of all of these emotions, or feel them at different times, particularly in response to something which has gone very wrong – like the death of a loved one. 

However, we also need to avoid letting our emotional responses overwhelm us.


Overcoming the urge to give up

We all feel like giving up sometimes. If you feel sad, angry or scared, the natural response can be to take yourself out of the situation and do something else.

In some cases, for example if you are in danger, then that is the right response.

At other times though, we need to think about how to be resilient. That is, how do we keep going despite feeling negative emotions?


Strategies to try

There are a few things which might help you:

  • Recognise your emotions and why you feel like that: It can be valuable to see your feelings and explore them. Naming your feelings can be very helpful in understanding and eventually managing them.
  • Focus on what has been going well: While there might be a setback, there are probably also lots of things that have been going well. It’s important not to lose sight of the positive things when something has been going well. 
  • Put the setback in perspective: For smaller setbacks, there are probably alternative ways to achieve something. A late train probably just means being a bit late to something, a lost letter can be resent. Even more significant setbacks will not be as overwhelming as they might first appear, even if they are rightly things that will cause great sadness. 
  • Think about taking positive action: When you feel ready to, think about what you could do next, which would be a positive way forward. 

These ideas are all explored further in the following steps. The focus, for now, is on not immediately giving up on what you are doing. Instead, it is about recognising those emotions and that the emotional feeling of stopping is not necessarily the right call.


Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

Learning can be challenging. It is not always possible to get all things right first time. Things will go wrong. When taking in lots of information, which might be complicated and tricky to understand, we may begin to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or anxious. These feelings can be quite normal when learning something new. We all might feel like giving up sometimes. If you feel sad, angry or scared, the natural response can be to take yourself out of the situation and do something else to avoid what is causing you stress. In some cases, for example if you are in danger, then that is the right response. At other times though, we need to think about how to be resilient - how to keep going despite feeling negative emotions. In education this is important if we are to continue learning and developing.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

With busy work schedules, targets to be met, meetings to be had and the feeling of having lots to get done in never quite enough time, it is no surprise that in the workplace things can sometimes go wrong. Negative emotions can creep in. A person may even feel like the best thing to do is walkaway in order to avoid having to deal with whatever it is that has gone wrong. We need to work towards being more resilient to avoid just giving up. Speaking to a trusted colleague or line manager about any concerns we have in the workplace is advisable. They may be able to help you see how to overcome the setback. Negative emotions when something goes wrong in the workplace nearly always pass if we take positive action – just like they do in other places too.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

None of us ever want something to go wrong. Unfortunately, in life, many things are out of our control. It is unavoidable that sometimes some things will go wrong. These might be small things – an unexpected shower of rain when you don’t have an umbrella or coat, or not being able to find something you need such as your keys or phone when you are in a rush. However, they might be much bigger things – the loss of a job, becoming ill, or the death of someone we know and love. When something goes wrong, it is usual to experience negative emotions such as sadness, frustration or disappointment. However, we need to avoid letting our emotional responses overwhelm us. We need to make sure we can always see and feel it is worth carrying on and that we do not give up.  

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!

  • At the end of every day or week make a list of the top 3 things that have gone well for you.
  • Reflect on anything that has not gone so well. Talk to a trusted friend or family member and begin to consider positive actions you can take to overcome what has gone wrong.
  • When something goes wrong for you, try stepping back from the situation and imagine someone else is telling you about it. What would you say to them to help them? We are often kinder and more helpful to others than to ourselves. Be your own friend when something goes wrong.

Build this step

Advice for


Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce a discussion of when things have gone wrong for them and how they felt in response.
  • They can then pose other hypothetical or real scenarios that learners will be familiar with, and ask them how they think the individuals involved felt as a result of those events. 
  • This can be expanded to learners reflecting individually on small setbacks they have experienced and how they felt as a response.
  • The teacher can then open up a discussion about how when we face setbacks and negative emotions, we can sometimes think that the best way of stopping those negative emotions is to stop what we are trying to do. However, negative emotions almost always pass – instead, we should try to take positive action. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be effectively reinforced in several ways. Sometimes when learners are facing setbacks themselves, a teacher can play an influential role in helping them to identify negative emotions they are feeling in response, and coach them to continue to persist even in the face of setbacks. 

Learning about other world events, communities or characters in literature can also provide a range of scenarios and setbacks, which can be useful for framing a discussion about overcoming the urge to give up. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through discussion and sustained observation, as learners face setbacks in their studies. It might also be explored through discussion, talking to learners about how they respond to setbacks in their wider lives beyond school.

Build this step

Advice for


Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to those who face setbacks at work.

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

  • Discuss how, when we face setbacks and negative emotions, we can sometimes think that the best way of stopping those negative emotions is to stop what we are trying to do. Here a manager could explain that negative emotions almost always pass – instead, we should try to take positive action. 
  • Model an example of when they have faced a setback and negative emotions and what happened as a result, and how they managed to keep trying. 
  • Task an individual to think through how another person may have felt when experiencing another scenario.  
  • Reflect with the individual about how they felt when they faced a setback at work, and how they managed to continue trying.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When dealing with a setback together.  
  • Working with customers or clients: When facing a situation where there has been a mistake or something has gone wrong. 

Reviewing it:

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

  • Asking the individual to describe what steps they would take to overcome the desire to give up.
  • Observing whether the individual is actually able to act in that way, or whether they respond to setbacks by giving up. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Interviewing an individual for evidence of them having faced a setback at work, and how they responded. 
  • Asking the individual to complete an observed activity which includes a high degree of challenge, and seeing how the individual responds to that challenge – whether they persist or give up.

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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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

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