Uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced universities to use online curricula for undergraduate and postgraduate programs rather than traditional face-to-face teaching with mid-semester and end of semester exams. Paper-based assessments and marking were not possible with the existing COVID safety guidelines. This paper introduces a new engineering degree program, established at Charles Sturt University (CSU), Australia, to take advantage of emerging trends and opportunities in engineering education. The CSU Engineering program includes several features commonly observed in leading future-focused engineering programs, such as valuing work-based learning, emphasizing student self-reflection and engineering design, strong academic leadership, the use of educational innovation and new tools for educational exploration, and student assessment that includes 6000 hours of industrial work placement. This program has specifically considered the challenges of modern water engineers identified by researchers and field engineers, such as developing and maintaining a reliable drinking water supply with raw water deteriorated by climate changes and various human activities. The CSU Engineering program has been recognized as an exemplary model to educate future engineers and it is fully supported by industrial partners. The flexibility, professionalism, responsibility, and leadership of CSU cadets have been highly valued by CSU industrial partners and their feedback indicates the steady progression of the cadets’ soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, leadership, community engagement and interpersonal relations. CSU cadets are highly paid by industrial partners and the program has continued operating smoothly with minimum disturbances from COVID-19 restrictions.