Business leaders have the power to tackle the growing UK skills crisis, according to ground-breaking charity, ASTRiiD – but first, they must relax rigid views of employment and revolutionise outdated attitudes towards diversity and inclusion.

Speaking at Salesforce World Tour in London last week, ASTRiiD chairman Steve Shutts, brother of founder, David Shutts OBE, urged thousands of employers from across the technology sector to expand traditional recruitment networks and unleash the potential of the ‘invisible talent pool’ – millions of skilled people affected by long-term health conditions, but with a thirst to work.

“Our aim is to make the invisible, visible,” Shutts explains. “This remarkable community of people has been hidden in the shadows for too long, confined by traditional recruitment practices that block their access to employment.

“We want to create a ‘new normal’ by helping company owners, directors and entrepreneurs realise the value of tapping into existing talent – – both to their bottom line and to the wellbeing of those employed. We’re calling on leaders to break the mould of their existing approach, by placing diversity and inclusion at the very heart of their company.”

Shutts made the address, which was broadcast live to 1million online viewers, to a packed crowd during the ‘We are all Trailblazers’ keynote, led by Salesforce chief marketing officer Simon Mulcahy.

ASTRiiD was invited to join the line-up of special guests, to share how the charity is innovating using technology to match people with chronic illness, and their care-givers, to meaningful employment and voluntary mentoring opportunities.

The first-of-its-kind in the UK, the ASTRiiD platform was the brainchild of David Shutts OBE, who created the concept with help from best friend Simon Short, Executive Vice President, Customer Success and Growth EMEA at Salesforce, after being diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2015. A former Royal Navy commander, business champion and passionate leader, he was unable to attend the event and share his bold vision for the charity, due to the rapid progression of the disease, now in its final stages.

Instead, sibling Steve Shutts voiced the critical messages to leaders in the audience and told the heartfelt story of ASTRiiD’s success, which has attracted hundreds of professionals and businesses spanning most sectors to register nationwide.

The first connections were made during the last few months, including former physics teacher, Peter Buckley who has started working on a flexible basis with Associated British Ports (ABP). Describing getting back to work as ‘a lift out of the darkness’ the 49-year-old from Shropshire is leading an air quality management project for ABP to review emissions across its UK sites in preparation of new legislation. Like ASTRiiD’s founder, Peter has advanced cancer. He was given just six months to live when diagnosed five years ago and was forced to give up his day-to-day responsibilities.

During the keynote speech, Shutts highlighted that over 100,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year, a statistic that shocked visitors and many following on social media. He says: “Worryingly, Macmillan estimates that working-age people now make up one third of those living with a cancer diagnosis – a figure that has increased by 10% in five years, but this is just one example of who we can help in the invisible talent pool. When other long-term health conditions are considered – from arthritis to MS, heart disease, stroke and more – that’s 15million people in the UK living with a chronic illness, potentially facing obstacles to full-time employment. David believes work has been the best medicine for him and Peter told us that since having a job again, his doctors have reported no new signs of clinical disease. We can see what business leaders can help achieve by introducing a little flexibility, so why wouldn’t they?

“If one person helps one business improve, and by doing so fights their disease such that they outlive their prognosis, then ASTRiiD has fulfilled its purpose – that’s been David’s vision since the beginning. Extending this vision to a global basis would make ASTRiiD a true trailblazer, but first we need business leaders to jump into the pool.”

Reflecting on the event, Shutts shared an emotional invitation to encourage those with the ability to effect change to support David’s legacy. Read it here:

For more information, to register or donate, visit and join the conversation using #InvisibleTalentPool on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.