TennesseeWorks Partnership on Meaningful Work

The average unemployment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Tennessee is 83%. The Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities is working to lower that number by partnering with State agencies and community organizations, with several goals and objectives. Our TennesseeWorks Partnership is supported by a Project of National Significance grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Community Living (ACL), Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD).


  • Develop TennesseeWorks Partnership as a compelling, sustainable collaborative
  • Raise the aspirations and capacities of young people, their families, educators, service systems, and employers to pursue integrated, competitive work as a realistic and first choice
  • Equip families and educators across the entire state with accessible and relevant resources, training, and supports to enable them to successfully connect youth with disabilities to early work experience
  • Develop a shared, cross-agency data system to enable data-driven decision making
  • Stimulate systems and policy change statewide


  • Develop a vibrant statewide collaborative across Tennessee
  • Engage parents and young people with disabilities in all aspects of our ongoing efforts
  • Launch a statewide tiered training and dissemination model to strengthen the capacity and commitment of systems, practitioners, employers, and families to deliver best practices that promote meaningful work
  • Remove systemic barriers to meaningful work identified by stakeholders
  • Implement innovative approaches for disseminating effective practices
  • Implement policies that establish meaningful work as the first and desired choice
  • Strengthen data collection efforts and evaluate the extent to which substantial improvements in policies, practices, and employment outcomes are evident stateside
  • Establish mechanisms to ensure the sustainability and long-term impact of our efforts

Erik Carter, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Elise McMillan, J.D., Co-Investigator
Sarah Harvey, Director of TennesseeWorks Program, (615) 322-4999

See the TennesseeWorks website for information on