SHELBY — Rob Musick built a successful career in the world of information technology. Now, he’s taking those skills out of the corporate world and into the non-profit realm.
Musick is the founder and CEO of Embold, which offers high school students the chance to earn industry-recognized credentials online.
Embold’s online training covers more than 100 industry-recognized credentials through a partnership with SkillSoft, a global e-learning company. Embold offers a turn-key solution for administrators with customized and managed online portals, complete onboarding for students and detailed usage and assessment reports.
Although technically a non-profit, Musick prefers to call Embold a social business. It operates like a business and generates profit — but profit is poured back into educational and humanitarian efforts in Guatemala.
“I’ve been in the business world to the point where I wanted out of that. I wanted to try to make a difference,” he said. “I wanted something different out of life.”
Preparing tomorrow’s workforce
Although most of Embold’s packages focus on industry-recognized credentials, Musick’s original concept centered around soft skills.
Before founding Embold, Musick worked as the chief information officer for an insurance company. He spent more than 25 years in IT management.
As a manager, Musick noticed a troubling trend among students and graduates entering the workforce. There were plenty of talented candidates with the right technical expertise, but they lacked the professional skills to succeed in the workplace.
“We were having kids come in for job shadowing or mentoring and my employees would come to me afterwards and say, ‘Please don’t ever do that again,” he recalled.
Before the pandemic made e-learning ubiquitous, Musick was asking himself whether students could learn soft skills online.
He arranged for 200 local high school students to take an introductory course through SkillSoft, a e-learning company specializing in IT, business and leadership.
The students scored an average of 57 percent on soft skills pretest. After taking the course, the average score rose to 90 percent. The results convinced Musick that his idea could work.
“It’s not they’re bad kids or anything like that. They just don’t understand what’s expected in the business world,” he said.
Musick reached out to the Ohio Department of Education. The department recommended Musick choose coursework that aligned with the OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal — an optional graduation credit for high school students.
He did so, then went out to promote Embold to school districts and professional organizations. He made it to one conference before a mysterious new virus shut down the world.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was initially a set-back, but it soon turned into opportunity. The Ohio Department of Education reached out to Musick again and encouraged him to expand his model to include online industry-recognized credentials.
Today, students can earn credentials from companies like Amazon, CompTIA, Cisco, Google and Microsoft. Topics range from six sigma to blockchain, data security, cyber security, cloud security, java and ethical hacking. Most of those credentials can be applied towards high school graduation requirements.
Many are also TechCred eligible, meaning companies looking to “upskill” their employees can get reimbursed for the cost of the training.
Embold course packages are self-paced and completely online, but most also have professional mentoring services available. Students can live chat or email a professional in the field if they need a little help.
Embold also offers students the flexibility to transfer from one package to another for free if they decide they want to pursue a different credential.
“We don’t want to force training upon them or force them to continue down a path that they’ve already realized it’s not what they want to do,” Musick said.
Embold also reimburses client school districts or employers for the cost of the program if a student doesn’t pass.
Musick said he’s able to offer that reassurance because he’s confident in the courses, which have a 92 percent pass rate.
An expression of faith
Musick’s Christian faith was the driving factor in his decision to found Embold. He was already feeling a restlessness in his career when a friend loaned him the book that changed his life.
“The Hole in Our Gospel” is the true story of Richard Stearns, a corporate executive who left his high-profile job to run World Vision U.S., a faith-based relief organization.
“The whole book is really a challenge about ‘What is Christ really calling us to do?'” he said. “If we don’t have an outward expression of faith, then what doing really?
“Instead of pursuing wealth and things, we should really be trying to build the kingdom and helping out those in need.”
The book hit home for Musick.
“At that point I was climbing the corporate ladder. I was really focused on a career but it wasn’t where my heart was,” he said. “After I read that, book, I realized just how meaningless it was.”
Not long afterward, Musick went on a church mission trip to Guatemala. During that trip, he got to know children living in poverty. He saw families living next to the city dump, where they spent their days scrounging for recyclables to sell to afford food.
“When you see pictures on TV and you hear about these stories, it’s a little bit easier to just kind of disengage,” he said. “When you’re there and you’re in the midst of it, you know these people and you come to love these kids.
“I couldn’t walk away without thinking I needed to try to do something.”
Musick was already ruminating over an idea for a new business when he felt a call to help in Guatemala. So he decided to combine the two budding passions.
He spent a few years working with existing organizations in Guatemala, trying to understand how best to help. Meanwhile, he worked to develop Embold in order to fund that work.
Profits generated by Embold go towards a number of on-the-ground initiatives in Guatemala. Embold has partnered with Children’s HopeChest to provide resources like food, medical care and young adult training programs to impoverished communities.
Embold also provides scholarships for the Stones of Light Education Foundation, which provides online schooling for children in rural Guatemala.
He’s currently working with Stones of Light to provide Embold packages in Spanish.
“The programs that he’s put together are amazing. He’s been a huge help to us,” said Scott Hosking, director of Stones of Light. “Rob is taking what he has and translating it into Spanish and we’re looking at running it through all kinds of places in Central and South America.”
Embold has also contributed funds to help build a K-12 school in Chisec, Guatemala. Musick hopes its the first of many.
“My tagline of providing life-changing opportunities is really two-fold,” Musick said. “I’m trying to do that in the States with kids, but I’m trying to provide a different type of life-changing opportunity in Guatemala.”