Gateshead College students are helping a social housing maintenance company to build a brighter future.Mears Group's North East operation has taken on 11 new apprentices from the college across a wide range of disciplines.Michael Rodgers and Connor Singh, both 17, have embarked on a maintenance operations apprenticeship while 21-year-old Adam Henderson has chosen a plumbing apprenticeship. They have been joined by apprentice plasterer Aaron Dalton, 19, and 16-year-old Thomas Humby, an apprentice painter and decorator.All five are helping Mears to service a multi-million pound property maintenance contract with Gateshead Council . The three-year contract, which started in April 2012, will see Mears carry out more than 50,000 repairs per year on homes managed by The Gateshead Housing Company.Meanwhile, six other Gateshead College students are helping Mears to service a separate maintenance contract on behalf of Home Group.Apprentice electricians Declan Laidler, 17, and Christian Ridge, 16, are joined by 17-year-old Aidan Elstob (plumber), 18-year-old Jack McRobbie (joiner) and 19-year-olds Jack Howorth and John Ellison (maintenance operations).The four students on the maintenance operations apprenticeship are working towards the new Level 2 Multi Skills Construction qualification offered by Gateshead College. The course allows students to understand the broad nature of the construction industry and the wide range of skills involved. It also gives them the option of specialising in a particular trade later on in their career.The new intake brings the total number of apprentices working from Mears in Gateshead to more than 30.John Norton, North East regional director at Mears, said: "Apprenticeships are vital for us to secure a viable future for this business. With older skilled workers retiring and the need for of a multi-skilled approach, it's really important to bring in a regular influx of talent who can take the company forward and meet our Client needs."Due to our strong relationship with Gateshead College, which stretches back several years, we have been able to take on many local students who are already adding genuine value to our business."Mick Brophy, managing director of business innovation and development at Gateshead College, said: "Some employers may be wary of taking on young apprentices of 16 or 17 because they might feel it would take too much time to train them up to the required standard. However, Mears is a great example of how young, raw talent can hit the ground running, add genuine value to an organisation and help to protect its future.""Apprenticeships are a great way for a business to retain vital skills and secure the future development of the workforce. They also give students the opportunity to build a career by learning useful skills while earning a wage."Mears Group is one of many companies which work with Gateshead College to fast-track students into employment. Last year the college teamed up with Nexus to create 30 new rail apprentice posts as part of the transport operator's new advanced engineering apprenticeship programme.