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KLA Location Spotlight: Newport, Wales, UK

May 31, 2022 6 min read

Wales is the next stop on our global tour of KLA locations. Famous for its coalmining, castles and ruggedly scenic coastlines, Wales today is also known for celebrities Tom Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Christian Bale and Taron Egerton – and for its science and technology.

Part of the United Kingdom, Wales has had a storied past and present. The Industrial Revolution of the 1790s stimulated mining in the valleys of South Wales and by the 1880s transformed nearby Cardiff, now the capital of Wales, from one of the smallest towns in Wales to the largest, and its port was handling more coal than any other port in the world. Today, a thriving semiconductor ecosystem of leading manufacturers, research institutes and academia stretches from Newport to Cardiff and Swansea, driving innovation and technology advances toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution.   

For more than 40 years, Newport, Wales has been home to the R&D and manufacturing arm of KLA’s SPTS division, a global supplier of advanced wafer processing solutions for the world’s leading semiconductor and microelectronic device manufacturers. KLA’s etch and deposition equipment is used by chip manufacturers to make semiconductor devices such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and sensors used in smartphones, high-brightness light-emitting diode (LED) for cars, high-speed radio frequency (RF) integrated circuits (ICs) for 4G and 5G communications, and power semiconductors for electric vehicles and renewable energy applications.

Award-Winning Innovation

The SPTS division has been recognized by leading industry experts, government agencies and Her Majesty the Queen, having received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2013 and 2017 and for Innovation in 2018 and 2020. The prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise  recognizes the Newport location for its technology solutions and innovation as well as responsible business practices such as employee affairs, customer and supplier relationships, impact on the environment and contributions to society.

The Queen’s Award for Innovation 2018 was for KLA’s advanced packaging technologies for the global semiconductor industry.

The award recognizes KLA’s development of novel physical vapor deposition (PVD) process solutions for Fan-Out Wafer Level Packaging (FOWLP) of semiconductor devices.

The Queen’s Award for Innovation 2020 was for another advanced packaging technology and recognized KLA’s development of the 300mm Mosaic fxP plasma dicing solution for high-throughput and damage-free singulation of semiconductor devices. Mosaic fxP systems can be found in volume production environments for a range of applications including RFID, smart cards, power devices and integrated photonics.

“Each of these awards recognizes SPTS not only for our innovation and advanced technologies, but are also a testament to the talent, dedication and commitment our employees demonstrate every day. Without our high-performing teams and their continuous drive to be better, we would not be able to support the ongoing research and development that is key to making industry advances, keeping us ahead of the competition and supporting our customers’ success.”

Dan Collins, general manager, SPTS division

Working in Newport

A diverse and multidisciplinary workforce of 500 scientists, engineers, technicians,  assemblers, testers and business support staff is based in Newport, with almost 300 additional SPTS division employees working globally. Due to KLA Newport’s significant growth in recent years, the company plans to build a larger R&D and manufacturing center at a new location in Newport, Wales. KLA’s new facility will accommodate its growth plans requiring additional high-technology jobs to support continued development of wafer processing solutions for high-growth secular industries and build on its existing expertise in advance packaging and compound semiconductor processing technologies.

Developing Employees with University Degrees

The 12-month Graduate Development Scheme offers participants who already have bachelor’s or master’s degrees an opportunity for a full company overview which includes technical and soft skills training as well as department placement and mentoring. Graduates completing the program have become process, software and product engineers and finance professionals. KLA Newport is now recruiting candidates to join the 2022 cohort intended to start in September.

“Through these six-week rotations I am gaining a unique insight into how different departments within KLA operate and work together, as well as what my future role in the process groups might be,” Charlotte says.

Earning a Degree while Working at KLA

KLA Newport also participates in Network 75, a five-year combined work placement and part-time study program through the University of South Wales. Participants attend classes two days a week while also working at KLA for three days – earning not just a degree but also five years of work experience.

Dan completed his bachelor’s in accounting and finance in May 2020 while working in multiple departments at the Newport location. He also earned accreditation through the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in 2022.

“This mix of exposure has been great in letting me see all sides of the business,” Dan says. “I have a
degree and five years of work experience.“

Following the Apprenticeship Route

Some join KLA Newport as part of an apprenticeship program for three or four years while still working to complete academic work at a college or vocational school. Apprentices are trained to achieve a higher national certificate, mostly in engineering disciplines such as manufacturing, customer support, production and product support.

“If I need advice, there have always been countless people I can speak to,” says Anik, senior new product introduction engineer. “I’ve always felt that everyone within KLA is approachable and supportive no matter what stage in my career I was in, ranging from apprentice through to senior engineer.”

Culture of Continuous Improvement and Development

Continuous improvement is embedded in the culture at KLA Newport, and since 2014 employees have taken part in an annual event to showcase various improvement projects driven by teams of employees to improve operational efficiency and sustainability. Employees responsible for the best projects are recognized with an award, and employees who have been training in Six Sigma methodology are awarded their yellow, green or black belts.

SPTS has used Six Sigma, a data-driven methodology used to improve processes, since 2017. The division now has:

  • One master black belt and one in training
  • 14 black belts and one in training
  • 56 green belts with 12 in training

We Invest in People

KLA Newport received the Investors in People (IIP) Gold Standard accreditation in 2019. This unique standard offers a rigorous assessment against the IIP framework and reflects the latest workplace trends to help organizations achieve high performance through people. The IIP framework includes key areas to enable high performance through people such as managing performance, recognizing staff, leading and inspiring.

In April 2022 KLA Newport received the President’s Award for its 10th consecutive Gold Award from the Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Occupational Health and Safety, recognizing the company’s dedication to continuous improvement in accident prevention and employee wellbeing. 

“In our highly competitive industry, attracting, developing and retaining an inspired and diverse workforce at all levels is vital to realizing our growth and business objectives,” says Dan Collins, general manager, SPTS division. “Providing a safe and stimulating work environment for our employees has always been a priority, and we are proud of the commitment and support of all the staff in maintaining this high standard of health and safety practices in the workplace.

KLA in the Community

As part of its community engagement, KLA Newport supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in schools.

SPTS joined the UK-wide STEM Ambassador program in 2018 to make connections with local schools, colleges and other organizations looking for volunteers to share their STEM expertise and support specific lessons or educational events.

Twenty STEM ambassadors in Newport have taken part in multiple activities, including:

  • Primary school group visits to KLA Newport to learn how silicon chip technology is used in everything from smartphones to smart cars
  • Judging high school engineering projects and hosting a table-top display explainng careers at KLA at the Big Bang Fair South Wales
  • Teacher training day in association with Welsh Valleys Engineering Project
  • Extension of KLA Foundation’s STEM Inspectors program into Wales that incorporates the use of paper microscopes to teach semiconductor basics to students

To start your career at KLA, a World’s Most Admired Company, browse our job openings in Wales and our many global locations for the opportunities ahead for you.

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