Mr Ramki Murugiah, 19, failed his N-level exams twice.
The former Normal (Technical), Outram Secondary School student passed just one of six subjects - Tamil - in his first try in 2012.
He retook three papers the following year - English, maths and science - but failed all of them.
He was rejected for all the two-year Nitec courses at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) that he had applied for.
Students who pass no more than one subject for the N-levels stand little chance of being accepted into the two-year courses because of the competition from other students who fare better.
He said: "I couldn't go anywhere."
His older brother, 22, helped him search for other options to further his education. On the ITE's website, his brother read about the Enhanced Nitec Foundation Programme (ENFP), meant for N(T) students who failed their N-level exams, or passed only one subject.
Students in the ENFP go through a Nitec course, but with the curriculum spread over three years instead of the usual two years. This gives students with a slower learning pace more time to absorb the lessons.
Five courses are offered under the programme: beauty and wellness, retail services, facility technology, laser and tooling technology, and mechanical technology.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said the programme, which took in its first batch of students last year, is meant to help N(T) students who passed no more than one subject in the N-level exams acquire a skills qualification.
About 300 students are now enrolled in the ENFP.
Our lecturers encourage us to talk to them about our problems, even if they are not related to school. They know that students tend to keep things to themselves.''
STUDENT NURUL JANNAH JASWAN, 20, who is studying retail services in ITE's Enhanced Nitec Foundation Programme
The ITE has 180 places for the programme next year.
This year, 96.6 per cent of the 5,139 N(T) students who took the N-level exams passed at least one subject. This means about 170 students failed the exams.
Mr Ramki, who is in the programme's pioneer batch, is now studying facility technology at ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang.
"I like what I'm doing. In class, we learn how to fix air-cons and power light bulbs," he said.
In a usual Nitec course, students take four technical modules a year. But under the ENFP, they take just two such modules a year.
This frees up time for lecturers to run motivational camps and team-bonding activities to help students remain in school. For instance, the students attended a three-day, two-night camp at the Bottle Tree Park last year.
Student Nurul Jannah Jaswan, 20, who is studying retail services in the programme, said that she has grown closer to her classmates and the lecturers through such activities. She said: "Our lecturers encourage us to talk to them about our problems, even if they are not related to school. They know that students tend to keep things to themselves."
Next year, she and her classmates will go on a work attachment programme for three to six months. She has not thought about where she would like to work.
Ms Jannah said: "My lecturers told us to keep our options open, because more companies may partner ITE next year."
To Mr Ramki, the three-year programme is a lifeline.
He said: "The ENFP helped me a lot. I'm learning new things now, and I will get a certificate when I finish the programme."