The Second Chance School in Leeds will help 300 people between 16 and 25 catch up with skills designed to improve their chances of getting a job. Ministers hope similar projects will develop in another 17 cities.
Mr Blunkett said: "In the past we failed many of our youngsters; 45,000 of them have no qualifications by the time they leave school. There will always be a need for people to learn and relearn. School failure can be a life sentence to unemployment and poverty."
He said he hoped the project would have a "nation-wide influence".
The European Commissioner for science and research, Edith Cresson, was also at the launch and said that 10 to 15 per cent left school in the EU without basic literacy skills. "This need is a real one and we're trying to find a way to answer it," she added.
Keith Hall, 23, who is unemployed, is one of the first students. He said: "My schooling wasn't up to scratch. It was terrible and the system failed me."
n Universities should review their admissions to give more opportunities to people without traditional qualifications, Baroness Blackstone, education minister, told vice chancellors at a conference in London yesterday
Lady Blackstone told the conference, sponsored by The Independent: "We want higher education to offer more opportunities later in life for those who missed out first time."Reuse content