The listed marine workshops on Railway Quay will be used to form the University Technical College (UTC) planned for Newhaven.
Lewes District Council said the grade II listed workshops were contructed in 1882 but have been empty for some years.
The college is due to open in September 2015 to 600 students, who will be able to follow a technical programme of learning.
District council leader James Page said: “I’m absolutely delighted that this major project has got the go ahead and am fully behind the use of the Railway Quay site for the UTC.
“I believe that local people will be pleased to see the buildings put to good use. We have had our first request for a place for a student from a parent which bodes well for the future.”
The marine workshops were used to repair both train and ship engines and were actively used until the early 1960s.
Ths site has been vacant for a number of years and the current owner, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), offered the site to the partners behind the University Technical College.
The council said the proposed location fitted in well with the college’s specialisms in marine and environmental engineering and provided a link with Newhaven’s manufacturing past.
Local and national employers are helping to design the college, to ensure students are provided with clear routes into jobs or further education and are ready for the world of work.
Discussions are underway with government officials to finalise plans for the site.