A Milford manufacturer and a young man who recently launched his career were honored with CBIA/CONNSTEP Manufacturing Leadership and Innovation Awards at the Made in Connecticut: 2020 Manufacturing Summit.

Sonitek Corporation of Milford received the Manufacturing Innovation Award and Merrick Lankarge, a 2020 Vinal Technical High School graduate who works at Somerset Plastics in Middletown, was given the Next Generation Leadership award.

Manufacturing awards: Sonitek Corporation's Steve and Thomas Bishop, TD Bank's Steve Litchfield, and Somerset Plastics apprentice Merrick Lankarge.

“Even in these unprecedented times, Connecticut manufacturers are a bright spot, and the Connecticut Manufacturing Awards symbolize all the positive things that are going on with Connecticut manufacturers,” CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said.

Steve Litchfield, regional vice president commercial lending TD Bank, presented the awards in the virtual conference.

The Manufacturing Innovation Award recognizes manufacturing companies that demonstrate innovation and leadership working with local schools and their communities to expand awareness of manufacturing as a career, and provide manufacturing training opportunities for traditional high school students.

“It truly is an honor,” said Steve Bishop, financial controller of Sonitek.

He accepted the award with his brother Thomas, the company’s technology manager, and on behalf of their father, Robert.

Family Atmosphere

As a small business specializing in the manufacturing of heat-staking machines, ultrasonic welders, and air pressers, Sonitek tries to foster a family atmosphere, Steve Bishop said.

“To all of us here at Sonitek, our local community is like family,” he said.

“This is why Sonitek works so closely with our local schools, more specifically, with Platt Tech High School in Milford.”

Bishop said Sonitek’s long-time relationship with Dave Tuttle, head of precision machining at Platt Tech, has provided the company with many talented employees.

"Our local community is like family."

Sonitek's Steve Bishop.

“Twenty percent of our engineering and machining departments have roots from Platt Tech,” he said.

Sonitek has extended internships and apprenticeships to high school students who have received training and acquire all the tools needed to succeed, he said

“Without Dave, Platt Tech, and the state apprenticeship program, we would not be as successful, or as large, and would not have been able to provide as many jobs as we did here in Connecticut,” Bishop said.

“Our relationship with our local community has raised awareness in manufacturing as a career, and as you all know, is a vital role in the success of manufacturing in Connecticut.

Next Generation

The Next Generation Leadership award honors a manufacturing professional aged 30 or younger who inspires youth in traditionally underserved communities, including minority communities, individuals with special needs, or individuals who are or have been incarcerated, to explore careers in manufacturing.

Lankarge, a mold-making apprentice at Somerset Plastics, inspires others through the example he sets.

"There are many opportunities for young people in the trades today."

Somerset Plastics' Merrick Lankarge

An honors student and star athlete at Vinal Tech, Lankarge said he’s excited to be part of the manufacturing community.

“There are many opportunities for young people in the trades today,” said Lankarge, who began his apprenticeship two years ago.

“I loved it ever since. It was all made possible by my high school and my shop teacher who put me in the school’s work-based learning program.”

Work Experience

The program allows students to go to work during school while still earning credits.

“This was a huge benefit to me because I was still able to go to school and earn work experience at the same time.” Lankarge said.

“It was also a good way for me to be able to see what my future holds and my foreseeable career.

“I’m looking forward to my future at Somerset Plastics.”

Somerset owner Cliff White said Lankarge is one of several successful Vinal Tech apprentices the company has hired.

“Merrick is proceeding very well,” White said.