Government to introduce ‘Tech-Levels’ alongside A-Levels

Government to introduce ‘Tech-Levels’ alongside A-Levels

The government has unveiled plans to introduce ‘Tech-Levels’ alongside A-Levels, which will be endorsed by employers and trade associations.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said that only those advanced qualifications that have the support of businesses or universities will be included in new-look 16 to 19 performance tablets from 2016, for young people taking courses from September 2014.

The changes follow similar action to overhaul school league tables for 14 to 16 year olds, which will see Computer Science added as a GCSE to the EBacc qualification.

For the newly announced Tech-Levels, exam boards will need to demonstrate their qualifications” quality by getting support from trusted employers or higher education institutions.

For example, vocational qualifications in IT, engineering, accounting or hospitality, will need public support from professional bodies, or five employers registered with Companies House. These qualifications will be known as Tech-Levels (equivalent to A-Levels).

Vocational qualifications not directly linked to an occupation but providing broader study of a vocational area will need the explicit backing of three universities – these will be known as applied general qualifications (equivalent to AS-Levels).

The changes will mean that at least 80 percent of the 5,000 vocational qualifications currently approved for teaching to those aged 16 to 19 will be removed from the league tables. However, students will still be able to take any qualification accredited for use by Ofqual, as the government still considers some of these smaller courses beneficial if taken alongside a larger, high-quality qualification.

“Tech levels will recognise rigorous and responsive technical education. High-quality rigorous vocational education is essential to future prosperity, and the life chances of millions,” said Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.

“Because technical education is so important, it is vital the qualifications young people take are stretching, high-quality and support their aspirations. These reforms are unashamedly aspirational and will ensure tech levels help people into apprenticeships and jobs.”

He added: “So for the first time we will ensure that exam boards list the employers or universities which support their courses. Only these stretching, strong courses will count in league tables.”

Also, the government has said that to count in the 2016 league tables, the new qualifications will need to be able to demonstrate what they lead to – be it a job, apprenticeship, or further study.

Tech-Levels will also need to involve local employers through work experience or by helping to design courses or assess students.Tech-Levels will ultimately count towards the TechBacc measure, which recognises the very highest achievements of students taking vocational courses.

Neil Carberry, Director of Employment and Skills at CBI, welcomed the move by said that the government needs to ensure that Tech-Levels aren’t considered second rate to other qualifications and must engage with industry to ensure courses are thorough.

“We’re facing a critical skills shortage in key industries, which risks holding back long-term recovery – that’s why we’ve been calling for tough new vocational qualifications to help bridge the gap.

“The litmus test is that Tech Levels offer the gold-standard training that employers want, while not being seen as second-class. Courses must have stretching subject knowledge; rigorous assessment; hard-nosed practical experience; and be a stepping stone to a great career,” he said.

“It’s right that businesses will have a strong voice in Tech Levels’ design but they need to command respect across entire sectors. We must make sure the approval process can show broad industry backing, using subject panels and sector bodies – not just a handful of firms.”

He added: “The new system must be very clear about which provision is deemed ‘occupational’ and which is to be ‘applied general’. Perception is all with qualifications, so we must avoid a two-tier system, where one is seen as too narrow and the other as too broad. We want to see the more rigorous Tech-Level brand extended to both.”

‘Angry Birds Rio’ release teams with Hollywood

‘Angry Birds Rio’ release teams with Hollywood

Take cover — a few well-known, dive-bombing birds will soon invade your local movie theater.

Angry Birds designer Rivio announced Friday it will release a special version of its popular app to tie into the release of the animated movie “Rio.”

In the game — called Angry Birds Rio — the Angry Birds characters are kidnapped and taken to Rio de Janeiro. It looks like gameplay will revolve around saving other captured birds, including two main characters from the upcoming movie, which is from the creators of “Ice Age.”

The partnership was announced at a press event on the Fox studio lot in Century City, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The deal seems to be a match made in heaven for both Rovio and Twentieth Century Fox. The game will benefit from being tied into marketing efforts — including TV spots, posters, and the film’s website. The movie will be able to piggyback on the pop-culture success of the game which has been downloaded tens of millions of times on Android, iOS, and other smartphone and console devices.

“It’s about taking that traditional entertainment experience — whether in theaters or on the TV screen — and creating a new level of engagement,” says Peter Levinsohn, president of new media and digital distribution for 20th Century Fox.

The plans work in well with Rovio, which has ambitious plans for Angry Birds — including television shows and even a movie based on the game.

“We are like birds of a feather,” said “Mighty Eagle” Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio. “This gets us massive global visibility, as if we had made our own movie.”

The game will be released in March while Rio, the movie, will open in cinemas on 15 April.

VentureBeat recently got a word in with “Mighty Eagle” about Angry Birds Rio.

Showcase for iChat AV

Showcase for iChat AV

Apple is attending the network show Pervasive 2003 to promote iChat AV.

Pervasive 2003 promotes speech-recognition technologies, voice-over IP, mobile-networking, infrastructure and so-called “smart client” software, as well as games. It is aimed at senior strategists in telecoms and media companies, enterprises, technology groups and analysts.

iChat AV is a revamped version of iChat software, and supports video and voice conferencing, in addition to IM features.

The Pervasive Web site says: “This is the only venue providing new business-models, cost-saving opportunities and business alliances that arise from the mixing of wireless technologies, Internet infrastructure, advanced speech processing and hosted services.”

Various sessions will explore such topics as wireless photo messaging and speech recognition. The event also features extensive tracks looking at the emerging Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) standard, which promises powerful communications features and is already supported within Windows XP and has been adopted within such enterprises as Reuters and BT.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Coming Out in November

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Coming Out in November

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will be making its way on Xbox 360 and Playastion 3 in November. Namco Bandai reveals that Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will be releasing on 30th November 2010 in US for the console platform.

They also said the game will soon be coming out in UK market also.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a story of a small boy and its friendship with his monster thingie. The game is entirely based in a seamless world which will be loves by gamers of all ages.

BetaDwarf To Release Forced On October 24th | FORCED

BetaDwarf To Release Forced On October 24th | FORCED

A Danish indie game developer, BetaDwarf, is days away from the release of their first Steam release titled Forced.

The History of BetaDwarf:

BetaDwarf is a Danish indie game developer that originally started as a partnership in 2010 by Steffen Kabbelgaard and Kenneth Harder.  The two met at Aalborg University and began to work on their first game, Armies Vs. Champions, but the game was postponed for a possible later release. 

It was at this point that the duo decided that they needed a team of designers for their next project, and thus enlisted a group of students to help them form BetaDwarf in 2011.  The team of nine members then began to work on their first game together with a timetable of around six months for the release.  However, that goal was not reached in six months and the team decided that they needed some way to better focus their attention to developing the game.

A look at what Armies Vs. Champions looked like during development.

BetaDwarf noticed that Aalborg University was quiet during the summer so they moved all their equipment into an empty classroom.  Some of the team even went as far to cancel their contracts on their apartments because they never left the classroom!  Unfortunately, the university eventually found out about BetaDwarf’s new “office” and the team was forced to move out.

On a happy note, BetaDwarf received $40,000 in support from the Danish Film Institute and were able to get a three-story house to operate out of.  Around this time, BetaDwarf put Forced on Kickstarter to try and help fund their game.  With only one week left, the game had not generated the necessary funds and the team was afraid they would not meet their goal. 

Luckily, BetaDwarf put together an image of the team and the game that was seen by approximately one million people.  The image was so popular that it was featured on national television and the team received the money to continue developing the game. 

In 2012, Forced was nominated for the best Danish game award alongside games like Hitman: Absolution and Subway Surfers.  And a year later, BetaDward won the award of best Danish Game Developer beating I/O Interactive (the company that developed Hitman: Absolution.)

The Game: Forced

Forced is set to officially release on Steam on October 24, 2013 and is currently available as an Early Access Game.  The game is labeled as a “one-to-four player co-op arcade action RPG with puzzle and tactical elements.”

The player will be cast as slaves that must fight in gladiator-style arenas with the eventual goal of earning your freedom.  However, the player will be accompanied by Balfus, your Spirit Mentor, as you fight enemies and solve puzzles within each arena. 

Forced will also feature a Survival Arena mode that pits players against increasingly difficult waves of enemies.  BetaDwarf has announced that more playable modes will also be available at later dates.

BetaDwarf’s story is inspiring and hopefully we will continue to hear more from the company in the future.  The company has endured some hard times during the last couple of years during the production of Forced, and the game looks like it could be a hit when it releases on October 24, 2013.

Foxconn CEO blames past worker suicides on breakups, family disputes

Foxconn CEO blames past worker suicides on breakups, family disputes

Four years after a string of suicides brought unwanted attention to his company, Foxconn Technology Group’s CEO said none of the deaths had to do with poor working conditions at its factories.

“It wasn’t because the workers were tired,” Terry Gou said on Wednesday at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting. “Some of it was because the work is monotonous, but 90 percent of it had to do with personal relationships or because of family disputes.”

In 2010, over a dozen Foxconn workers made suicide attempts, resulting in 14 deaths, according to labor watchdog groups. The suicides brought heavy scrutiny to Foxconn over the working conditions at its factories in China, where it assembles products for Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Nintendo and other big brands.

Since then, Foxconn claims to have made progress in improving life at the facilities. But even when the suicides occurred, the company’s factories had some of the best working conditions in China, Gou maintained on Wednesday.

Following the suicides, the Chinese government sent 230 officials to the facilities, spending two weeks to investigate the deaths, he said. “They originally wanted to publish the investigation results, but a minister I won’t name said they couldn’t,” Gou said. “If they did, at least 95 percent of China’s factories wouldn’t have been able to reach the standard we met.”

The bad press from the suicides, however, hasn’t stopped Foxconn from expanding. China and other countries including the U.S. are still asking the company to build factories in their markets, Gou said.

“This [the suicides] is what happens when your company reaches a certain scale,” he added. At the time, the factories in Shenzhen had 470,000 workers, more than the student bodies at typical U.S. or Chinese universities.

Gou also cited a “news article” to claim that the leading cause of human death is the mosquito, followed by suicide, but neither appears on a World Health Organization list of the top 10 causes of death.

Many of the workers at the factories were between 20 and 25 in age, had yet to marry and were away from their families. So breakups with a lover could be traumatic, and workers had no one to look for comfort, Gou said.

Other factory workers then decided to exploit Foxconn, by making suicide attempts to gain cash, he added. “We at first gave a compensation that was so high, the families of the suicide victims’ would never be able to spend it all,” Gou said.

Not all would agree with Gou’s view of the events. Labor protection groups have in the past accused Foxconn factory managers of forcing workers to log long hours, and demanded the company raise wages. But some experts also argue that Foxconn factories are generally better run than the smaller, lesser-known manufacturing facilities in the country.

Foxconn, however, is trying to rely less on human workers. On Wednesday, the company’s CEO revealed Foxconn has a fully automated factory in operation in the Chinese city of Chengdu. “We haven’t talked much about the factory, but it’s manufacturing a product from a very famous company,” Gou said, without elaborating.

The factory can run for 24-hours with the lights off, he added. In addition, Foxconn has been adding 30,000 of its own industrial robots to its factories each year. “We don’t sell them, because we don’t have enough for our own use yet,” he added.

Microsoft announce XBLA Summer of Arcade 2011 dates

Microsoft announce XBLA Summer of Arcade 2011 dates

Microsoft has just announced the final details of XBLA “Summer of Arcade” promotion, which is schedule to begin of July 20. The list of title for this year’s Summer of Arcade are Bastion, From Dust, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Fruit Ninja Kinect and Toy Soldiers: Cold War.

Xbox Live Summer of Arcade logo

Gamers who will buy all these five Summer of Arcade titles, will get a free copy of Crimson Alliance by Certain Affinity priced at 1200 Microsoft Points, when it launches on September 7

More details on this below:

Bastion (Supergiant Games/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
Release Date: 20 July
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points

From Dust
(Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft)
Release Date: 27 July
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
(Fuelcell/Microsoft Studios)
Release Date: 3 August
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points

Fruit Ninja Kinect (Halfbrick/Microsoft Studios)
Release Date: 10 August
Price: 800 Microsoft Points

Toy Soldiers:
Cold War (Signal Studios/Microsoft Studios)
Release Date: 17 August
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points

Bandai Namco Shows Off New F2P Gundam Game 

Bandai Namco Shows Off New F2P Gundam Game 

There’s a new free-to-play Gundam game heading to consoles — in Japan, at least.

Bandai Namco has announced Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation Next for the PlayStation 3 and 4, and judging by the trailer, it’s full of rock ’em, sock ’em robot action. There’s even a beta currently underway that you can get in on if you have a Japanese account for PS3 or PS4.

If you’re a Gundam fan in the West, however… well, it might be a long, or even perpetual wait. There’s no word as to whether this game will be coming to our shores anytime soon. When it does, Bandai Namco would be crazy not to offer a Founder’s/Early Access Pack for $100,000 or so that includes your own full-size Gundam. CRAZY.

Fragsters: Unreal Tournament 2004 imminent

Fragsters: Unreal Tournament 2004 imminent

Unreal Tournament 2004 for Mac has entered duplication, MacSoft announced last night.

The company hopes to release the Mac version of the game close to the same time the Windows version hits the shelves. The Windows version is expected to be available from March 19. Softline UK predicts that the Mac version will ship in the UK by the end of the month.

Unreal Tournament 2004 from Epic Games is the sequel to Unreal Tournament 2003. It offers 95 levels with detailed maps, introduces land and air vehicle combat and delivers an arsenal of new weapons, arenas and battlefields.

A brand-new feature is the UnrealTV broadcast system, which allows people to log on and watch battles between other players online.

MacSoft founder Peter Tamte said: “Epic has followed through on its awesome commitment to the Mac platform by delivering the Mac version nearly simultaneously with the PC version. It’s going to be a thrill going online against both Mac and Windows players in just a couple weeks.”

The game requires a G4 or G5 processor and Mac OS X 10.2.8 or higher. The game is availabe on DVD. The game will cost £40.

Let's get down to business: Swordsman Online official launch adds new content 

Let’s get down to business: Swordsman Online official launch adds new content 

Demons Pit 7Demons Pit 7
Swift as an arrow, the martial-arts MMORPG Swordsman Online has moved on from its monthlong Open Beta and into full release. The transition comes with the addition of a brand new high-level dungeon deemed “The Demon Pit”, while also streamlining the patching process along the way. In celebration of the MMO’s launch, Perfect World is hosting a special leveling contest with the grand prize winner netting themselves a Hero’s Pack.

The new Demon Pit instance requires at least three level 50 players to complete, and has the trio fighting off waves of a host of elemental wraiths and other demonic entities, before the final encounter against the Crystalline Empress. In total, players will fight through 9 floors, many of which posses their own unique boss fights. Upon successfully completing these nine levels of hell, players can expect to be rewarded with the very best equipment in-game.

For those who enjoy statistics, PWE has provided readers with an infograph detailing several surprising milestones during Swordsman’s Open Beta. For example, players performed over 8,700 tripple jumps per hour and stole over 75,000 sheep via cross server PvP. As for what they did with the sheep, one can only speculate. The full infograph can be seen below:

Swordsman Launch InfographicSwordsman Launch Infographic

For those interested in trying Swordsman Online out for themselves, they can visit the official site here.