Working for himself as a construction project manager in Poole when he was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2017, Gordon Youngson left work aged 65 to start treatment and spend more time with his loved ones.

He said: “To be told across the table by a consultant that you have stage four cancer is just terrible, it made mine and my family’s hearts drop out.”

After seeing Astriid’s founder and ex-CEO David Shutts on BBC Breakfast last year, Gordon felt it was great to see what the charity had done for other people with health conditions who, like him, could no longer work full-time in conventional roles but still have a great deal to share. Interested, he signed himself up to their one of a kind service.

Astriid is a charity aiming to tackle the UK’s skills crisis by filling the gap with the invisible talent pool, made up of skilled professionals who are unable to work full time in conventional job roles because of long-term medical conditions. They are often overlooked by employers but may be more suited to voluntary or paid flexible positions. The charity invites jobseekers who have chronic illnesses to join their free online community where they get matched to flexible paid or voluntary positions listed by employers.

Gordon felt a close affinity with David Shutts, not just because of the similarities in their stories but also because of how close their paths were to crossing as Gordon’s work in project management extended to specialist engineering in the service of the Navy.

After receiving the news that David had died last year, Gordon said: “I was very sorry to hear about David’s passing; I always felt an affinity of closeness with him and we could possibly have been sat in the same meeting together without even knowing it.”

With the help of Astriid, Gordon has been put into contact with potential job opportunities in engineering and construction. He said: “What I’ve missed most about working is keeping your brain busy, the camaraderie and the banter of working with other people. It’s always nice to be challenged as well, I’ve never been averse to that.”

Astriid’s chairman, Steve Shutts commented: “Unfortunately, many people like Gordon who live with ongoing health conditions but still want to work have trouble finding employment. We’re really pleased to hear that Gordon has been helped by Astriid.

“I have no doubt that Gordon’s story will inspire the business leaders, employers and other people with long-term illness looking for flexible work to get behind our mission to make the invisible visible.”

According to The Open University, 63% of UK organisations are currently experiencing a skills shortage and three in five senior business leaders report that their organisation is not as agile as it needs to be due to a lack of skills. In England, around 15million children and adults live with chronic disease according to the Department of Health.

Astriid estimates that across the UK, there are hundreds of thousands of people with a wide range of qualifications, skills and experience, but are excluded from the national workforce because of long-term medical conditions. This issue could be reduced greatly if employers were more open to hiring people with chronic illnesses who can be found using services like Astriid’s online platform. Gordon said: “Going through chemotherapy means you get to meet a cross-section of people from old to young, you get talking to them and they’re all in the same boat when it comes to working.”

Astriid was the winner of Recruiter’s Charity of the Year Award in both 2018 and 2019. Finally, Gordon said: “I’ve been following Astriid’s work and it’s wonderful to see what they’re doing and the awards they’ve won as they continue to go from strength to strength.”

For further information on Astriid, to sign up as a partner, become a member, advertise a position or donate, visit:  www.astriid.org.uk/. To stay updated on social media, join the conversation using #InvisibleTalentPool via FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram.

About Astriid:

  • Astriid (Available Skills for Training, Refreshing, Improvement, Innovation and Development) is a unique UK charity with the mission to provide meaningful work for people with long-term health problems and their carers.
  • Founded by David Shutts OBE the charity’s online matchmaking services allows businesses to tap into the ‘invisible talent pool’ – highly-skilled people affected by chronic illness, who have dipped under the employment radar with the potential to bridge the UK skills gap. For a long time, this community of people has been invisible to employers, and employers invisible to them. Astriid aims to make the invisible visible.
  • Astriid became a registered charity in January 2018. Registered Charity No.  1176645. 
  • For more information, to register or donate, visit www.astriid.org.uk

More about David Shutts OBE:

Beginning his career as a Ministry of Defence apprentice before joining the Royal Navy in 1985, David Shutts OBE climbed the ranks culminating with a promotion to Commander in 2004. As a senior naval officer at the helm of the fleet’s most technologically-advanced warship at the time, David was awarded an OBE for leadership. At 45, he took a new challenge as vice president of global sales for a maritime logistics company, before moving into the role of regional director at a business organisation in 2014.

A year later, 10 days after turning 50, David’s life changed direction with a diagnosis of inoperable stage four advanced renal cancer – an experience that made him aware of how much work offers in terms of self-worth, self-esteem and interaction – much more than financial reward.