CANBERRA, March 24 - The college will have an initial investment of $25 million.

A tender for the college will open shortly with plans for operations to start in January 2018.

Its focus will be on increasing the size of the existing workforce ahead of construction starting on the Offshore Patrol Vessels next year, Future Frigates in 2020 and 12 new submarines in the early 2020s.

"We can not have each project cannibalising neighbouring industries," Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute dinner in Canberra overnight.

Australia's naval shipbuilding industry was on the cusp of one of its most significant growth trajectories, he predicted.

"By necessity (the college) will have to be national in scope. No one state can do it by itself."

Pyne said students could be undertaking training through the college, for shipbuilding in South Australia, but actually be studying at a Brisbane university or TAFE in Shepparton or Bunbury.

The college would have to work with existing institutions such as the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, he said.