Geography students have been getting work experience without going to work through an initiative piloted by Leeds University's School of Geography.
Pauline Kneale, professor of applied hydrology at Leeds, outlined the scheme to the higher education research group of the Royal Geographical Society Institute of British Geographers at the Glasgow congress.
Students did not always find appropriate workplace opportunities, she said, but Leeds had developed a series of case studies based on work issues.
These give students an opportunity to develop skills such as teamwork, managing awkward situations, being creative and understanding decision-making.
The process is described as "intrapreneurship" - the art of creating change in an organisation through new ideas or ways of working.
Professor Kneale said the case studies were not a substitute for work experience but they could develop students' understanding and help them make the most of casual work experience.
One student said: "It shows you can make a difference even as a temporary employee. I hadn't thought before about how I could get my ideas across effectively."
Professor Kneale said: "It's all about broadening horizons. It's not just about getting your next job, but understanding how you operate as an individual."