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Shropshire cancer survivor calls for better support to get long term sick into work, as new study highlights worsening UK skills crisis

Peter Buckley with wife Theresa

A former teacher from Loggerheads who was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer five years ago and battled to find meaningful work is urging local companies to support people like him.

Peter Buckley’s plea comes as the Open University publishes its latest Business Barometer (July 2019), which shows that the UK skills crisis is worsening, with 63% of businesses experiencing a staff shortage and 68% unable to find suitable candidates for vacant roles.

Yet the Department of Health estimates that around 15 million in England are living with chronic disease. Peter counts himself within this ‘invisible talent pool’ a term coined by a unique UK charity Astriid, which was established to help the long term sick access job opportunities.

He was the first person to gain meaningful employment via Astriid’s award-winning match-making service, securing a fixed term role with Associated British Ports (ABP) as a development manager for air quality.

Peter said: “Companies are facing a skills shortage so they need to support Astriid because it’s changing the lives of people like me for the better, offering purpose and hope, where there was none.

Peter’s role involved creating management plans for 10 of APB’s ports and sites across the UK and assessing air quality management systems ahead of new legislation coming into force in 2020 to address pollution.

He explains: “I had 10 minutes to fill and decided to join – what did I have to lose? It only took a few minutes to upload my details to the platform – and that was that. I wasn’t really expecting anything from it but a few months later I was notified that I’d been matched with Associated British Ports (ABP) .

“The match was only 52% compatible and I thought it wasn’t enough, my skills mustn’t be quite right. I still wasn’t expecting much but after more discussion about the role with the employer, found that a lot of my existing skills were relevant and they wanted me for the job. It was enough of a shove to show me that I should be going for jobs. My determination was reignited and that was exciting.”

Passionate about the support offered by Astriid, Peter has now embarked on a new challenge as the charity’s first brand ambassador.

He is clear about his mission for Astriid. He said: “I want to encourage local businesses to sign up and post jobs that are flexible to suit people with health conditions, and I’m keen to help Astriid fundraise too, so it can support more people into work.”

Since making a return to work, Peter’s doctors have reported that they’re delighted to see no new signs of clinical disease and no tumor growth.

For further information on ASTRiiD, to sign up as a business partner, become a member or register to fundraise, visit: https://www.astriid.org.uk/, Twitter: @Astriid_No1, Facebook: @ASTRiiDNo1 and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/astriid/.