Tapping into the invisible talent pool

INNOVATION BITES: ASTRiiD finds a solution to the skills gap in an unexpected place.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 05 Jul 2018

 Finding people with the right skills is a problem that affects 90% of businesses, according to the Open University’s Business Barometer. When the skills gap comes up, most talking heads look to the education system and immigration from abroad. But could the solution be right under our noses?

The ‘invisible talent pool’ consists of 15 million people who suffer some form of chronic illness but who still want to work. Despite their collective wealth of experience, their condition means they are often overlooked by recruiters due to the fact that they cannot commit to conventional work hours.


Founded in September 2017, the charity ASTRiiD - short for Available Skills for Training, Refreshing, Improvement, Innovation and Development – is trying to help businesses tap into this underused resource.

A business, looking to for help on a project or a certain position, registers to the site. Then an algorithm matches them to candidates with chronic illnesses based on their skills and experience. Once a match has been made, ASTRiiD takes a step back and leaves the conversation to happen between the business and candidate. ‘It’s the match.com for jobs,’ explains Steve Shutts, ASTRiiD CEO.


ASTRiiD was the brainchild of Shutts’ brother David, who was a navy commander and CBI regional director. He felt ‘valueless’ after his diagnosis of kidney cancer left him unable to return to work, despite desperately wanting to. So he created a platform designed to match businesses needing skilled staff or volunteers with people like himself.

He realised that aside from financial stability, employment - even if only a short placement - can provide normality, distraction and challenges that can often be of far more value to a trying to a person recover from chronic illness.

Sadly David passed away in May 2018, but ASTRiiD has continued to grow.


Steve is keen to stress that the invisible talent pool offers a genuine business solution, but only if more senior leaders are prepared to be less restrictive in the way they look for talent within their organisations and more flexible in the way that roles are offered.

The skills we need are out there, he says, if only we’re willing to adapt. After all an engineer with cancer is still an engineer.

Image credits:  Doidam 10/Shutterstock


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