U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene has reintroduced legislation intended to connect the nation’s 370,000 unemployed veterans with jobs.

About $50 million would be made available through the Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act for the next five years, according to a news release from DelBene’s Washington, D.C., office. The Department of Labor would award the grants to employers and labor-management organizations for developing pilot programs to provide pivotal skills to eligible veterans.

“I think it is unique,” said Kim Baier, OSW Equipment and Repair human resources director. “It is aimed specifically to help the veterans, it’s an avenue for them. There needs to be a resource for them to come into the workforce, a transition, there needs to be a transition, and that is exactly what this does.”

DelBene met with OSW staff that included working veterans at the company’s Maltby facility on Friday, the day after she brought the bill forward.

Vice president Steve Retherford said the Snohomish-based manufacturing company has about 130 employees. About 10 percent of those on the payroll have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, he said.

OSW will open a new facility in Maltby in the first quarter of 2018, and will need to sign on about 100 new employees.

Baier said OSW has proactively sought out and hired veterans for as long as she can remember. They have unparalleled discipline and the soft skills to succeed, she said, even more so than their civilian counterparts.

“There are many reasons (to hire them), not the least of which is it’s the right thing to do,” Baier said.

Of the nation’s unemployed veterans, about 139,000 served in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, according to the release. Of those, female veterans have a 7.4 percent unemployment rate, which is the highest among all veterans and nearly double the national average of 4.4 percent. 

OSW Quality Control and Warranty manager Dusty Nelson, who served in the Gulf War, said he was one of the lucky ones who was able to find work right after he finished his service. He said he did not realize unemployment was so high among his peers.

“Yeah, it’s not common, my story, I don’t think,” he said.

About, 300,000 new jobs open up in the manufacturing industry every month, according to the release. Those companies predict two million jobs will be unfilled in the next decade due to “well-documented skills gaps in advanced manufacturing.”

The problem is that companies need their potential hires to have some specialized skills coming in, said OSW controller Stephanie DeNoma. Time and costs are involved in training people on the job, she said.

If passed, the legislation would help companies establish on-the-job training programs, apprenticeships and certification classes for eligible veterans. Baier said OSW would definitely apply for the funds.

DelBene said other barriers exist aside from lack of relevant abilities. Just knowing how to communicate what skills veterans do have to potential employers can be a challenge. The disconnect is evident on resumes. It simply comes down to a difference in terminology, she said. 

Finding potential employees is also a challenge, Baier said. She goes through programs like WorkSource and Work of Honor. Other recruiting agencies she has found are too costly.

DelBene’s legislation was first introduced in 2014, according to her office. The bill had more than two dozen original cosponsors, including Rep. Rick Larsen and Rep. Denny Heck. The American Legion, AMVETS and the Association of the United States Navy have also endorsed the legislation.