Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute a broader understanding of the complexity in relationships of power and responsibility in employability in higher education contexts and posits a conceptual framework for employability as a process, something to be achieved.
Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual paper arises from experience of and research into placement practices and draws upon Joan Tronto’s feminist epistemology (1993, 2012) to argue for a critical understanding of employability.
Findings – There is little in the literature that discusses employability as a process involving moral and political work. The conceptual framework offers a process of five phases to provide a foundation for understanding employability that moves beyond a focus on skills and attributes.
Research limitations/implications – The conceptual framework enables all employability professionals, including researchers, to think beyond skills and attributes for employment to explore the implications of the relations that shape the need for employability within and outside their sphere.
Practical implications – Developing a conceptual framework enables employability professionals to evaluate their practices and assess: if practices are inclusive or excluding; the implications of power and responsibility; the tensions arising from the diverse nature of need in employability work.
Originality/value – This paper posits a conceptual framework for understanding the process of employability work as something to be achieved.