Announcing the Opportunity North East scheme at a school in Gateshead, Damian Hinds said children in the region need more support from education and business leaders, because it is listed bottom in England for a number of education measures.
Half of the money, £12m, will be used to help young people make better transitions from primary school to secondary school and onto higher education, including universities, degree apprenticeships and other technical education options.
The north east had the lowest number of 18-year-olds attending top universities in England in 2017. It also has one of the highest proportions of young people not in education, employment or training (Neet) aged over 11 years old.
The government will use the remaining £12m to improve the quality of teaching in the area, particularly in secondary schools that are performing worse than in other areas of England.
The funding is part of the £42m Teacher Development Premium, launched in December 2018, which sees teachers in underperforming schools receive up to £1,000 for extra training to encourage them to remain in their jobs.
The Opportunity North East scheme will also aim to stimulate job opportunities through local enterprise partnerships and local businesses.
North east education, business and council leaders, among others, will manage the project through an executive board appointed by the government, reporting to schools minister Lord Agnew.
"It's absolutely right that we challenge ourselves to do things like increasing access to university for young people from black and minority ethnic communities but we must remember that disadvantage is not limited to a single group," Hinds said.
"White British disadvantaged boys are the least likely of any large ethnic group to go to university. We need to ask ourselves why that is and challenge government, universities and the wider system to change that.
"It's vital that we do this to make sure that no part of our country feels as though it has been left behind, and that every community feels like this is a country that works for everyone."
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Teach First chief executive Russell Hobby said children in the north east have fallen behind peers in other parts of the country, because the region faced "economic and industrial change".
"It's a complex problem but one part of the solution is simple: even more great teachers where they are needed most," he said.
"So it is good to see the DfE investing in their recruitment and development."
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the funding will "go an exceptionally long way to help our schools tackle the challenges that they face".
"Working with local authorities and business leaders, we will ensure our young people are given every opportunity to fill the high-quality jobs of tomorrow," he said.
The Department for Education said the executive board members would be appointed shortly, and the project would begin in 2019.