Cancer won’t stop David Shutts making Britain’s ‘invisible talent pool’ visible

By Kitty Knowles 5 September 2017

Matching top businesses to top job-hunters with chronic illnesses.

Engineer David Shutts served in the Royal Navy for 25 years, with his commanding role on HMS Daring, the most technologically advanced warship at the time, earning him an OBE.

He left the navy in 2010, to lead become a Director at a leading global maritime company, and later joined ‘the voice of British business’, the Confederation of British Industry.

Then, in 2014, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 advanced kidney cancer.

“My diagnosis instantly stopped my professional life,” Shutts told The Memo. “From being relentlessly busy, juggling priorities, and having a ‘no two days the same’ type of existence, suddenly, I experienced feelings of solitude, a lack of worth, dwindling self-belief and a lack of self-confidence.”

“It seemed to me that I had gone from ‘valuable’ to ‘valueless’ in the space of one diagnosis.”

Shutts took a few months to focus on his health, but soon successfully sought ways to negotiate a return to work. Thousands are not so lucky.

“We as a country are completely ignoring a community of people who have so much to offer but no one knows how to find them or talk to them,” he explains.

“I called this community the Invisible Talent Pool – Astriid’s mission is to make the invisible visible.”

Meet Astriid

Launching today, is Shutt’s new digital tool Astriid (this stands for Available Skills for Training, Refreshing, Improvement, Innovation and Development).

It’s an online employment pool created specifically to help those with cancer and other long-term chronic illnesses find paid and voluntary work.

“All these people yet, despite all their skills, abilities and years of experience, felt as I did. They are no longer known for what they can do, they are labelled by their medical condition,” Shutts explains.

“These same people, however, have a desire, and in many cases a need for work – but there is no mechanism currently in place that will allow them to meet with potential employers who could use their skills and experience. Astriid will provide that mechanism,” says Shutts.

Shutts hopes to instead help people find the routine, social interaction, challenges and emotional and financial rewards people need to avoid risking life as a recluse.

“For me, it’s the feeling that you’re needed, that your opinion is regarded and that someone out there wants you and your skills to help them. That is what makes all the difference to my life.”


The Astriid platform

How it will work

The way Astriid works is simple. Individuals register their skills and experiences along with a view on how much time they might be able to give to a potential employer. “This might be a number of days a week or even just a few hours a month,” says Shutts.

A company registers and highlights the skills and experiences that they are looking for in order to complete some element of work.

Astriid then compares registrations to match partnerships who can agree the best way forward.

“I want users to feel that they have worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and a desire to get up in the morning and tackle the day ahead,” says Shutts.

“I want them to be able to forget that they have an illness and instead focus on the things where they can contribute directly and help make a difference.”

The future

Astriid exists today because of, (the Salesforce philanthropic effort to dedicate 1% of its time, 1% of its profits and 1% of its resources to non-profit or charitable organizations).

“At one point there were 45 people across 6 countries contributing to Astriid,” says Shutts. “The commitment, professionalism and, above all, good humour working on a project that is probably the most informal they’ve seen has been truly inspirational to me and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve achieved.”

The next step for Shutts will be to focus on marketing, and getting as many individuals signed up as possible (in terms of companies, Shutts will be targeting small and medium-sized businesses).

“In 5 years I hope that Astriid will be used to help many different types of communities of people, and won’t be restricted to the UK but instead will be global.”

“Sadly, statistically, I’m unlikely to be around when we get that far, but you can bet I’ll be watching from somewhere.”

It will be an incredible legacy to leave behind.