Essential Skills

Essential skills are the skills we all need to thrive in education, work and life and are proving to be ones heavily required in a time of crisis1. With estimates that unemployment has already risen to at least 2.5 million 2 and research showing that those who are most disadvantaged are the hardest hit 3 the UK must build the skills it needs for economic recovery while supporting people back to work and ensuring social mobility.

Key facts

  • Businesses struggle to recruit school and college leavers with the essential skills needed for work.1
  • Essential skills are highly transferable skills like communication, problem solving and teamwork that are needed for almost any job.2
  • Essential skills can be developed throughout our lives and can’t be automated out. 3

Introducing a common language for skills

The Skills Builder Universal Framework, developed by the Essential Skills Taskforce, provides a common language on skills from the classroom to the boardroom. Already being adopted by Boots, KPMG, Jacobs, and Tideway, it is a key tool for economic recovery from COVID-19.
The eight essential skills are listening, speaking, problem-solving, creativity, staying positive, aiming high, leadership, and teamwork. The skills cover communication, creative problem solving, self-management, and interpersonal skills.

Essential skills are the skills we need now

To face the challenges ahead employers, alongside educators and Government, must commit to recognising and developing essential skills both in their talent pipeline and in their existing workforce.

We are asking businesses to:

  • Recognise essential skills among their workforce, using the common language of the Skills Builder Universal Framework.
  • Develop essential skills in their current and future workforce using consistent language and steps from the Skills Builder Universal Framework.
  • Promote essential skills as the #skillsweneed with their partners and join our call for Government to make essential skills development part of the national curriculum, giving this equal weight alongside knowledge.

Essential skills leadership

Essential Skills Taskforce

The Essential Skills Taskforce is made up of leading organisations from the education and employment sectors that have come together for the first time to agree a universal framework for essential skills.

Keep up to date


1 Michelson, J (2020) What’s the surprising leadership lesson in the Covid-19 crisis, Forbes

2 Wilson, T; Cockett, J; Papoutsaki, D and Takala, H (2020) Getting Back to Work, Institute of Employment Studies

3 Sector Shutdowns during the Corona Virus, Institute of Fiscal Studies, April 2020;