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The Universal Framework
for Essential Skills
The Skills Builder Universal Framework builds off the Skills Builder Framework, with adaptations to ensure it can work for anyone - in education, employment or for people who just want to build their essential skills.
Full Report
Toolkit for Education
Toolkit for Employers
Toolkit for Organisations
This work is at final draft stage, and will be launched officially in May 2020.
Listening
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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I listen to others without interrupting
Step 1
I listen to others and can remember short instructions
Step 2
I listen to others and can ask questions if I don't understand
Step 3
I listen to others and can tell someone else what it was about
Step 4
I listen to others and can tell why they are communicating with me
Step 5
I listen to others and record important information as I do
Step 6
I show I am listening by how I use eye contact and body language
Step 7
I show I am listening by using open questions to deepen my understanding
Step 8
I show I am listening by summarising or rephrasing what I have heard
Step 9
I am aware of how a speaker is influencing me through their tone
Step 10
I am aware of how a speaker is influencing me through their language
Step 11
I listen critically and compare different perspectives
Step 12
I listen critically and think about where differences in perspectives come from
Step 13
I listen critically and identify potential bias in different perspectives
Step 14
I listen critically and use questioning to evaluate different perspectives
Step 15
I listen critically and look beyond the way speakers speak or act to objectively evaluate different perspectives
Speaking
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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I speak clearly to someone I know
Step 1
I speak clearly to small groups of people I know
Step 2
I speak clearly to individuals and small groups I do not know
Step 3
I speak effectively by making points in a logical order
Step 4
I speak effectively by thinking about what my listeners already know
Step 5
I speak effectively by using appropriate language
Step 6
I speak effectively by using appropriate tone, expression and gesture
Step 7
I speak engagingly by using facts and examples to support my points
Step 8
I speak engagingly by using visual aids to support my points
Step 9
I speak engagingly by using tone, expression and gesture to engage listeners
Step 10
I speak adaptively by changing my language, tone and expression depending on the response of listeners
Step 11
I speak adaptively by planning for different possible responses of listeners
Step 12
I speak adaptively by changing my content depending on the response of listeners
Step 13
I speak influentially by changing the structure of my points to best persuade the listeners
Step 14
I speak influentially by changing the examples and facts I use to best persuade the listeners
Step 15
I speak influentially by articulating a compelling vision that persuades the 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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I complete tasks by following instructions
Step 1
I complete tasks by finding someone to help if I need them
Step 2
I complete tasks by explaining problems to someone for advice if I need
Step 3
I complete tasks by finding information I need myself
Step 4
I explore problems by creating different possible solutions
Step 5
I explore problems by thinking about the pros and cons of possible solutions
Step 6
I explore complex problems by identifying when there are no simple technical solutions
Step 7
I explore complex problems by building my understanding through research
Step 8
I explore complex problems by analysing the causes and effects
Step 9
I create solutions for complex problems by generating a range of options
Step 10
I create solutions for complex problems by evaluating the positive and negative effects of a range of options
Step 11
I analyse complex problems by using logical reasoning
Step 12
I analyse complex problems by creating and testing hypotheses
Step 13
I implement strategic plans to solve complex problems
Step 14
I implement strategic plans to solve complex problems and assess their success
Step 15
I implement strategic plans to solve complex problems and draw out learning to refine those plans over time
Creativity
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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I imagine different situations
Step 1
I imagine different situations and can say what I imagine
Step 2
I imagine different situations and can bring them to life in different ways
Step 3
I generate ideas when I've been given a clear brief
Step 4
I generate ideas to improve something
Step 5
I generate ideas by combining different concepts
Step 6
I use creativity in the context of work
Step 7
I use creativity in the context of my wider life
Step 8
I develop ideas by using mind mapping
Step 9
I develop ideas by asking myself questions
Step 10
I develop ideas by considering different perspectives
Step 11
I innovate effectively when working in a group
Step 12
I innovate effectively by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli
Step 13
I support others to innovate by sharing a range of tools
Step 14
I support others to innovate by evaluating the right creative tools for different situations
Step 15
I support others to innovate by coaching them to be more creative
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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I can tell when I feel positive or negative
Step 1
I can tell when others feel positive or negative
Step 2
I keep trying when something goes wrong
Step 3
I keep trying and stay calm when something goes wrong
Step 4
I keep trying when something goes wrong, and think about what happened
Step 5
I keep trying when something goes wrong and help cheer others up
Step 6
I keep trying when something goes wrong and encourage others to keep trying too
Step 7
I look for opportunities in difficult situations
Step 8
I look for opportunities in difficult situations, and share these with others
Step 9
I look for opportunities in difficult situations, and adapt plans to use these opportunities
Step 10
I look for opportunities in difficult situations, and create new plans to use these opportunities
Step 11
I identify risks and gains in opportunities
Step 12
I identify risks and gains in opportunities, and make plans to manage them
Step 13
I support others to stay positive, by managing my own responses
Step 14
I support others to stay positive, by helping others to see opportunities
Step 15
I support others to stay positive, by 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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I know when I am finding something too difficult
Step 1
I know what doing well looks like for me
Step 2
I work with care and attention to detail
Step 3
I work with pride when I am being successful
Step 4
I work with a positive approach to new challenges
Step 5
I set goals for myself
Step 6
I set goals informed by an understanding of what is needed
Step 7
I set goals, ordering and prioritise tasks to achieve them
Step 8
I set goals and secure the right resources to achieve them
Step 9
I set goals and plan to involve others in the best way
Step 10
I create plans that are informed by my skill set and that of others
Step 11
I create plans that include clear targets to make progress tangible
Step 12
I create plans that are informed by external views, including constructive criticism
Step 13
I develop long-term strategies taking into account strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Step 14
I develop long-term strategies that use regular milestones to keep everything on track
Step 15
I develop long-term strategies that include feedback loops to support flexibility and adaptability
Leadership
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 the 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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I know how I am feeling about something
Step 1
I know how to explain my feelings about something to my team
Step 2
I know how to recognise others' feelings about something
Step 3
I manage dividing up tasks between others in a fair way
Step 4
I manage time and share resources to support completing tasks
Step 5
I manage group discussions to reach shared decisions
Step 6
I manage disagreements to reach shared solutions
Step 7
I recognise my own strengths and weaknesses as a leader
Step 8
I recognise the strengths and weaknesses of others in my team
Step 9
I recognise the strengths and weaknesses of others in my team, and use this to allocate roles accordingly
Step 10
I support others through mentorship
Step 11
I support others through coaching
Step 12
I support others through motivating them
Step 13
I reflect on my own leadership style and its effect on others
Step 14
I reflect on my own leadership style, and build on my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses
Step 15
I reflect on my own leadership style, and adapt my approach according to the situation
Teamwork
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.

Step
Statement
Step 0
I work with others in a positive way
Step 1
I work well with others by behaving appropriately
Step 2
I work well with others by being on time and reliable
Step 3
I work well with others by taking responsibility for completing my tasks
Step 4
I work well with others by supporting them if I can do so
Step 5
I work well with others by understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds
Step 6
I contribute to group decision making
Step 7
I contribute to group decision making, whilst recognising the value of others' ideas
Step 8
I contribute to group decision making, encouraging others to contribute
Step 9
I improve the team by not creating unhelpful conflicts
Step 10
I improve the team by resolving unhelpful conflicts
Step 11
I improve the team by building relationships beyond my immediate team
Step 12
I influence the team by reflecting on progress and suggesting improvements
Step 13
I influence the team by evaluating successes and failures and sharing lessons
Step 14
I support the team by evaluating others' strengths and weaknesses, and supporting them accordingly
Step 15
I support the team by bringing in external expertise and relationships