Applications to the Peace Corps have seen a record spike in numbers after a 20 year lull, and the cause of the rush seems to be the streamlining of the application process.
Recent reforms to the recruitment process saw over 17,000 people submitting applications this year, a 70% jump from 2013′s numbers. The record high is the largest amount of applications seen since 1992 when 17,438 applied.
‘‘This milestone reminds us that Americans today want to serve others and make a difference, and we are making great strides to reduce barriers to service and modernize the Peace Corps,’’ director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said in a statement.
New organization director Hessler-Radelet is watching over a series of reforms which he hopes will reduce the amount of red tape involved in the application process to attract new recruits. His aim to hold a top-down revision of the program which could allow recruits to choose the country they are sent to, as well as their program specialty such as education or health, rather than being sent to where they are most needed.
The application process was found to be one of the major points of change for the organization after it was discovered that only 23% of applicants in 2013 actually finished the application process. However, since the changes took place only three months ago, which included putting the application online, 95% have completed the process.
New applications are streamlined to allow for faster completion. Applicants reportedly were able to finish the new process within an hour. The older version took up to 8 hours to complete.
“There is great demand for Peace Corps volunteers around the world, and our reforms have better positioned us to offer assignments where volunteers have the most interest in serving, and are able to make the greatest contribution,” Hessler-Radelet said in a statement.
Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to “foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries,” the Peace Corps has sent over 215,000 Americans overseas on goodwill missions to 139 countries on behalf of the US government. However, recent drops in the number of applications received has created record lows, with 10,118 applicants in 2013, amounting to a 44% drop since the last spike of 18,159 in 1979.
According to a Peace Corp fact sheet, there were 7,209 volunteers in June 2014 serving in 65 countries. The average volunteer is 28 years old, 63% are female and 37% male.
The Peace Corp is also looking for ways to increase diversity among the volunteers.
“We are stepping up our recruitment and outreach in underrepresented communities, and casting a wider net than ever before to ensure every American knows about the Peace Corps.,” a Peace Corps spokesperson told Mashable.
More funding is needed by the group in order to create more slots to accommodate the growing number of applicants. Hessler-Radelet said she is hopeful that Congress will see the recent growth and offer up more money.
“We can only accept the number of volunteers we can afford,” Hessler-Radelet says.