Navy veteran with stage 4 cancer makes it his mission to help cancer patients find work

Ten days after his 50th birthday,  British Navy veteran David Shutts was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer.

Now, two years after his diagnosis, David is pioneering a project that will transform the lives of thousands of fellow cancer patients across the UK.

Launched two months ago, David’s new digital tool Astriid (which stands for Available Skills for Training, Refreshing, Improvement, Innovation and Development), is an online employment pool created specifically to help those with cancer and other long-term chronic illnesses find paid and voluntary work.

ASTRiiD will connect people who have long-term illnesses but who also have plenty of skills and experience with businesses that need an injection of talent and expertise.

“Holding down a permanent job can be a massive challenge for people with cancer and other serious health problems,” said founder David. “Yet many people still want – and need – to work.”

Astriid founder David Shutts

ASTRiiD will make it easier for these people to find paid-for and voluntary opportunities with businesses by streamlining the employment-seeking process.

“With ASTRiiD, there are no long application forms,” explained the veteran, who served as an Officer in the Royal Navy for 25 years. “We ask people a few simple questions to determine their expertise and work preferences, and then match this with relevant opportunities at participating businesses.”

How does ASTRiiD 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.

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.

The invisible talent pool

According to cancer support charity Macmillan, more than 700,000 people of working age are living with cancer in the UK; much more are living with other long-term illnesses, such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which impact their ability to work.

“Every year many thousands of people are given a life-changing diagnosis of serious illness, which impacts their ability to work full-time.

“For many people work provides normality, routine, interaction with others, challenges and rewards,” said David, who was awarded an OBE for his contribution to the Royal Navy. “When work is removed it’s all too easy for an individual to turn into a recluse and lose whatever positive attitude they may have had. I firmly believe that knowing your skills and experiences, built up over many years, are still relevant, recognised and highly valued by businesses is key to help retain, perhaps even increase your positive, mental attitude.”

David added: “By enabling ASTRiiD members to find employment, we hope to make them feel more motivated and valued, which will improve their self-confidence and self-worth, and have a positive impact on their overall health and well-being.”

Keeping your mojo

Macmillan also revealed that nearly 60% of cancer survivors who were employed when diagnosed had to leave their job or change roles due to a range of reasons, including physical limitations, emotional wellbeing, or a lack of support from their employer.

“I speak from experience,” added David. “Without question, my health has declined over the last two and half years since my diagnosis of Stage 4 renal cancer in May 2015.

“But working on ASTRiiD and keeping busy has maintained my mojo and my feeling of self-worth and I’m sure I’m in a much better place as result of having meaningful work than I would have been if I’d had nothing to keep my mind and body active.”

“Through ASTRiiD I want to give others an opportunity to continue using all their skills and experience so please do visit our site and register.  And for companies I say to you, please register your company as I bet you have plenty of work on your ‘To Do’ lists that needs addressing.  ASTRiiD might just have the perfect person waiting to help you.”

Click here for more information about ASTRiiD, and to sign up as a business or potential employee.