Digital Gov

Peace Corps breaks records, moves hiring tech to the cloud

Shutterstock image (by VLADGRIN): cloud concept surrounded by abstract computer network with integrated circles of communication.

The Peace Corps just broke its 40-year record for applicants, and technology might have been a key enabler in connecting so many potential volunteers to the service.

In contrast to a broader story of painful federal hiring, the Peace Corps has streamlined and simplified its application process in the past few years.

On Oct. 14, the agency announced that it had received close to 23,000 applications in fiscal 2015, a 32 percent jump from the previous year and the highest number since 1975.

"What these application numbers tell us is that Americans today are as passionate about service as they have ever been," Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said in a statement.

But those "passionate" Americans had to apply somewhere, and the team behind improving the Peace Corps' application technology might deserve some credit.

The firm Kenexa has supported the Peace Corps hiring process since 2010. IBM acquired the firm in 2012, and in July, Kenexa's Peace Corps contract was renewed.

On Oct. 15, the IBM team released the latest plans for improving the Peace Corps' Volunteer Delivery System: moving to a hybrid cloud infrastructure model, expanding the public-facing application to mobile devices and enabling social media engagement.

"Federal agencies are viewing cloud much more strategically than infrastructure alone," said Anne Altman, general manager of U.S. federal government business at IBM. "For the Peace Corps, it's about engaging an audience that wants to actively participate in the volunteer application process and is accustomed to using new tools for such interactions."

IBM officials did not claim direct credit for the Peace Corps' application spike but noted that it seemed reasonable that a smoother process encouraged more people to apply. The Peace Corps did not return requests for comment.

The new capabilities, which IBM officials said they started working on this quarter, should position the Peace Corps to continue its momentum in attracting applicants.

"In the future, they'll be able to engage volunteers not just on a desktop" but on mobile devices and social media, said George Cruser, IBM's vice president of federal cloud. The Peace Corps will even be able to connect new volunteers with one another.

To attract members of a generation who "always seems to have a smartphone in their hands," those capabilities will prove invaluable, he added.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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